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and other useful stuff about product - Feb 2021
I feel like the amount of content available for consumption has become overwhelming – which makes me think the last thing people are looking for is another newsletter. But whatever. Hopefully, you find some value here and I can at least get the therapeutic effects of putting my thoughts into words. So here’s some of the best stuff on product I’ve found in the last month.
1/ There's a communications technique called "Public Narrative". Created by a Harvard prof, it has influenced leading politicians (Obama) and business people (Bezos).
“Public Narrative” is a way to structure speech to persuade and turn values into action. Sounds like something a PM needs to do all the time – persuade others, who you have no formal authority over, to take the actions you think are best for the product.
It’s always useful to have frameworks like this when you need to convince stakeholders your direction for the product is the right one. Check out the thread to see examples from famous leaders.
A quick 🧵 on saying no. While external forces definitely play a role here and may limit your options, this is an area where a lot of pain is self-inflicted.
This is something I think I might need to improve at. As a PM, there’s always more to do than you have time for – so prioritization of time is just as important as prioritizing the next features for your product.
It’s hard to say no, especially to your boss, but putting focus on something new means you’ll need to deprioritize something else. You need to make that explicit.
10 reasons your product will fail. (the meme remix)
Dude took a previous tweet from Brian Norgard and added memes to each reason your product might fail.
Not much to say here except it’s probably worth a minute or two of your time.
💻 On the Web
Impact = Environment x Skills: How to make career decisions
Bangaly Kaba on reforge.com
It’s funny how breaking things down into a math equation can help you see the levers you need to focus on.
In order to increase your impact, Bangaly suggests to break down the variables that go into your environment and skills, identify which ones matter, and figure out what you can do about them. The most important variables, he claims, are your manager (part of your environment) and your ability to communicate (part of your skills).
One of the most important pieces of advice I ever received was from Madhu Muthukumar, ex-Dir Product at Facebook and now Head of Product at Robinhood. He said, "Invest as much time in storytelling as you do in execution." Great execution with poor communication limits your impact over time. You could be doing great work, but without great communication then it won't receive the attention that it deserves.
I think this is true – but it’s a lot easier to communicate when everything is going well. The numbers help tell the story for you. But when the numbers aren’t looking so good, it becomes crucial to tell the right story so others believe in the direction you want to take the product. The Public Narrative framework mentioned earlier can help here.
Notes of Ryan Singer's Introduction to Christopher Alexander
Edo van Royen on edovanroyen.com
You may already know Ryan Singer from the Shape Up book he wrote about how they approach product cycles at Basecamp. If not you should check it out. His less famous work has been around the way he integrates practices from an architect, Christopher Alexander, who developed theories about the nature of human-centered design that were adapted to numerous other fields.
I had picked up Alexander’s book Notes on the Synthesis of Form a couple years back and was fascinated by the way he broke down a design problem:
Form – the product you are designing (and building)
Context – the surrounding environment that puts demands on the product
Goodness of Fit – how well the form and context fit together
From the PM perspective, you can think about it like this: the form is your product, the context is your user, and the goodness of fit is well it solves their problem. The ideal end state is “frictionless coexistence” between form and context.
Check out Ryan Singer’s 1.5 hour introduction to Christopher Alexander. If you’re not sure about making that big of a time commitment, skim through Edo’s notes to get an idea of what Ryan discusses in the video.
Cracking the PM Career: The Skills, Frameworks, and Practices To Become a Great Product Manager (Cracking the Interview & Career)
These two had previously published a book about interviewing to be a PM and now have taken the next step given lessons on how to excel in the position.
I've only had the chance to briefly skim through the book, but it looks impressive upon first review. She includes a skills framework that looks very similar to the one I borrowed from Shreyas for productskills.online. I would bet at some point in future I reference a nugget or two of wisdom from Jackie's new book.
Written as a guidebook for aspiring PM leaders, the authors suggest that your expertise is driven by the quality of your mental representations.
To get the most out of this book, focus on developing your mental representations around products, businesses, and people. Create and refine your own frameworks. Apply deliberate practice by comparing your intuitive behaviors to those of the best PMs. When you do this well, new situations you’re faced with won’t feel like total unknowns. Instead, they’ll each feel like a variation of a pattern you recognize.
I can see myself coming back to this book when I find myself stuck, or whenever I want to brush up on existing frameworks I’m putting to use. Definitely worth picking up a copy for yourself.
That’s all for this one. Until next month...
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