Tuesday, June 24, 2014

What is a/the Product?

I've struggled for a long time, and continue to struggle, with a meaningful definition of "The Product" that is both actionable, precise and tells the dual-nature of the Product Management work (representing both internal production/development/operations and external sales/marketing).

On a brief walk today I came up with this definition that might work:

"A Product is a representation of the resources a company controls using a terminology the customer understands"

This means that:

1. It must be possible to breakdown the Product into a well defined and unambiguous set of resources in a company, otherwise the Product cannot be delivered!

2. The Product must be representable in a way that provides unambiguous value to one or more customers, otherwise the Product cannot be sold!


This is actionable in the sense that it enables the Product Manager to understand, or to have to understand, exactly what resources will be required to deliver the Product to the defined customers (see the End2End model for support in that work) ... And it makes it clear that unless the PM is able to clearly demonstrate to the defined customers exactly how the Product provides value to them then it will fail.

.. not an easy task, but represents well the challenge coming from the original definition of Product Management: bridging the gap between company resources and customer needs.

Let me know what you think - comments are more than welcome.

Friday, March 14, 2014

The affectionate "kiss of death" for an entrepreneur!

If you ever had an idea that you were considering turning into a company I'm sure you have been met with feedback along the lines of:

"What a great idea! I'm sure there will be tons of people who would want your idea."

You leave the conversation feeling confirmed that you're on to something, that you're on track to success, that the rest of the world is eagerly awaiting the outcome, alas, sadly no!

This is just about the worst feedback you can get as an entrepreneur. Unless the person providing the feedback is able to be very specific about who "people" actually are or, even better, is willing to spend their own money, then the feedback is worse than useless - it is downright dangerous.

Leading entrepreneurs on is very easy. They have typically not read Karl Popper's empirical falsification (Wikipedia on Karl Popper) that demands the you always search for observations that will prove you wrong, not observations that will prove you right. As humans we tend to search feedback that confirms our beliefs, not the opposite - just look at religion.

So if you take that kind of kind, well-meaning, affectionate feedback at face value you can easily end up wasting a lot of time (if you're unlucky also a lot of money) on a venture that nobody *actually* cares about.

So what I try to do myself is be direct, very honest, almost brutal in my feedback on new ideas. Honestly, that's not easy because I tend to become very excited about new ideas, especially ideas presented by competent people with "fire in their eyes". And mind you, this enthusiasm for new ideas is a fundamental prerequisite for being the deeply naive and positive person needed to engage with the uncertain roller coaster of a startup.

Just promise me that you seek strong mentorship before fully embarking on the thrilling startup voyage.

.. but not any mentor - a brutally honest one.

Let me know if I can help you with some brutal feedback. I'm still learning how to do it right and would love to train on you.