All related (8)
Ibrahim Bashir
Vice President, Product Management, AmplitudeJune 26

I would start with minor tweaks to the existing process vs trying to completely re-do things - most changes that stick only tweak 1 variable at a time vs trying to change the whole system. So I would certainly not come in and try to redefine how ideation, scoping, planning, commits, shipping, reviews, etc work on Day 1. But if the team already ideates then I'd try to introduce customer conversations / user research as another avenue to generate ideas, then connect the dots to show that ideas that were grounded in external learning (vs internal opinions) had higher value over time.

Clara Lee
VP, Product & Operations (WooCommerce), AutomatticMarch 21

One way to get Engineering excited about customer focus is to invite them to listen in on interviews. We post all customer interviews on a shared calendar and use webinar settings that ensure observers hopping on / off are not disruptive to the participant or moderator. We also run an internal back-channel where observers can discuss responses or suggest follow-up questions. Often, I see that hearing directly from individual customers drives a level of engagement for Engineers that is much higher than if they were merely reading a written summary of aggregate responses at the end of a study. 

For Engineers, hopefully that can make more tangible the impact that your products can have on customers' lives and inspire greater empathy for customer challenges.

Mckenzie Lock
Director of Product, NetflixAugust 4

The good news is that you have an engineering team that is excited about the product & generating ideas. That’s huge. Over the long term, this will make your product more successful....so long as you can channel that excitement towards features that are also exciting to customers.

Your goal is to help your team fall in love with problems, not solutions. I’ve seen over and over again how this simple mindset shift can be a game changer for more user focused decision making.

Here are some approaches to consider:

  1. Expose your team to users - have engineers shadow user research sessions, share clips and quotes, or simply talk about your customers constantly. Bake user feedback into the development process if it isn’t there already. I’ve found that teams get most inspired when we ground their work on real humans. Use this to your advantage.
  2. Tweak your process with one pagers & “problem kick offs.” For every non-trivial project you take on, write a simple, one page description of the people problem, hypothesis, success criteria, and “skeleton of a solution.” By skeleton I mean, just enough to start thinking about solutions: e.g. "the ability upload a pin to a board" vs. "an upload button on the profile." Schedule a kick off to discuss and debate the problem, refine your hypothesis, brainstorm potential solutions - even before getting into requirements.
  3. Perfect your problem statement. Below are some best practices for writing problem statements. You may even encourage your engineering team to write these for their ideas! Here's what makes for a good problem statement: 
  • Is ONE sentence
  • Gets as close to the actual human behavior as possible. Avoid sayings like “the industry is changing” or “our systems are disconnected” those are just facts not problems in and of themselves.
  • Does not hint at a solution. Example of hinting at a solution: “We don’t have a common place for users to come…”
  • Is as specific as possible. Example: “drive efficiency” often isn’t specific enough - what does that mean exactly?
  • Is written in plain & simple language. “Project managers don’t have data tracking mechanisms built into their current workflows” => “Project managers don’t know what’s on track and what isn’t”
  • Includes WHO it’s a problem for (preferably a human being)
  • Is meaningful - describes the impact/negative outcome
Clara Lee
VP, Product & Operations (WooCommerce), Automattic
The biggest surprise was how hard it was to convince others that Product Leads / Product Managers would be an asset to the team. This sentiment was more common among those who had been at Automattic and WooCommerce for several years, and perhaps not worked with a Product Lead / Product Manager before. The questions I heard included: * Would this role add an extra administrative layer? A: It's actually a new type of work that would help us ensure what we build meets users' needs.  * Shouldn't Engineering and Design do this work? A: They are certainly capable, but it can sometimes...
Adrianne Wang Martinson
Head of Product, China Platform, Airbnb | Formerly Microsoft, Salesforce, Box, Adobe
One challenge I encountered as the product lead for a platform team was to identify the product management needs for some of the relatively technical product areas, such as Machine Learning and APIs. I had to justify these needs as many leaders and stakeholders felt that an eng manager or technical program manager were more suitable given their technical knowledge and depth. Realizing the fact that many platform areas are abstract and complicated to understand compared to some user facing features, I saw it was a great opportunity to bring awareness of the impact of platform product managem...
Rosa Villegas
Senior Director of Product, Central Technology, Zynga
It takes a solid 6 months for any new leader to make an impact on an organization. My first goal is usually to build trust and gain as much context as possible before making any big decisions or changes.    30 Days - My first objective is to listen and understand the organization, its customers, its goals and challenges. Identify key points of contact, stakeholders/customers, and colleagues. In the past I have done "listening tours" where I sit down with as many people as possible that represent voices within the organization and hear: * Their thoughts on the team and what is working/no...
Ibrahim Bashir
Vice President, Product Management, Amplitude
I try and start with a combined top-down / bottom-up exercise. Top-down: what are the top 1-3 business objectives that we can move the needle on with product work? Let's prioritize those. Bottom-up: what is the bare minimum keep-the-lights-on staffing level required to run our service / business? If there is any surplus from this exercise, you take on more of the backlog and can do more ambitious thing. If there is a deficit, time to deprioritize certain investment areas until the team is staffed to a healthy level.
Mckenzie Lock
Director of Product, Netflix
I’ll skip the obvious things - pay well, set a vision, growing company, skill building, career pathing - and highlight some under-rated ones: *  Hire well and have high talent density. Most people who choose a career in Product Management are motivated by self improvement - being around other talented PMs who they admire and who push their thinking is motivating. *  Stay lean. This may seem counterintuitive - isn’t it good to have enough PMs? Honestly, no. If you hire well you want to give people room to grow and stretch. The worst thing you can do is to staff up ...