I finally made it to the 🏀NBA!..well, almost
and other useful stuff about product - May 2021
As a basketball player, my life dream was to one day make it to the NBA. I finally made it, but not like I expected. The highest level I ever reached as a player was one of the professional leagues in Europe. But earlier this month, a product I just released was added to a section of nba.com. Life achievement unlocked!
Here’s to celebrating the wins🍾 , because they can never come often enough. And here’s the best stuff I found on product this past month.
I interviewed Stripe business lead (and Xoogler) @msiliski about the product culture at @Stripe. Here’s what I learned.
Ken asks Michael the question, “Walk me through a typical new product or feature. How does it start?” Michael first stresses the importance of talking to customers, understanding their problems, and then creating a rapid feedback loop with them when designing a solution. He then gets into the concept of product shaping.
I first heard “shaping” used to describe this part of the product development cycle in Ryan Singer’s principles of shaping, and have been fascinated ever since.
When we shape the work, we need to do it at the right level of abstraction: not too vague and not too concrete. Product managers often err on one of these two extremes.
To me, this sits at the core of a product manager’s responsibilities. Being able to apply a structured approach in an ambiguous problem space to create a path forward. And then enabling your team to use their expertise to create the optimal solution.
Aside from shaping, the thread covers combining deep thinking with speed and what it takes for a PM to thrive at Stripe. There’s more detail in Ken’s newsletter – it’s worth a read.
Serious thread time, here's what I think makes a good product manager
Taking a break from his normal shitposting, Alex delivers a serious thread on what he thinks it takes to be a good PM. What’s most important?
This can be especially tricky when you have important stakeholders with competing ideas of what they think the product should be. Here’s my suggestion:
Take their inputs and make sure they feel heard
Decide on (or adjust) a framework for making the tough decisions
Communicate this framework, and how it’s led to the choice(s) you made
Repeat as necessary
Simple, but not easy.
THREAD: The top 0.1% of marketing mental models. Compressing a 6-year career into the best 8 ideas
While we’re not officially marketers, there won’t always be a dedicated product marketer to help you out, so it’s good to have a few tricks up your sleeve to promote your product.
It’s easy to start thinking the actual product is the only thing you're hired to manage. But you sometimes need to go wider than that and think about the entire experience around your product. Don’t neglect things like onboarding flows or other touchpoints with your customer that happen shortly before or after the purchase.
Continued in the thread is a "3 M framework" for unboxing:
Mission - Help customers understand why you exist
Magic - Unexpected moment that delights the customer
Money - How do we turn them into a repeat purchase or referral
How can you apply this to your product? Speaking of frameworks…
🔥 A thread of product management frameworks
Frameworks are a product manager’s secret weapon – a helpful tool for thinking about your work and communicating your decisions. The more you have, the more powerful you’ll be – assuming you know how to use them right.
I suggest you bookmark 👆this tweet to keep these frameworks handy.
@lennysan - the job description for a Product Manager
@johncutlefish - teams often gloss over the difference between:
the work (what we try)
the goals (time-based .... this by this)
the model (what we believe that persists)
@shreyas - my approach for working sessions
@joulee - my favorite questions to ask folks to understand how they think and work
@gbrl_dick - someone explain to me what product managers do? – (lots of interesting replies to this one
💻 On the Web
A Product Super-Skill (Balancing Divergence and Convergence)
It starts with a simple question.
What is more common in your org?
A. Premature convergence? Pushing for solutions and agreement too early, in ways that hurt outcomes.
B. Delayed convergence? Taking too long to settle on a direction/decide, in ways that hurt outcomes.
But the answer is not as simple — both can be problems and can happen at various levels of decision making.
Even in the healthiest orgs, this dance is the beautiful balancing act of product work. You can never escape.
If only there was a framework to help us understand how to make the most of these tendencies. Ah snap!
At the end of the article, John leaves us with some points to ponder:
So are we destined to struggle? Perhaps. But some things can help.
Most non-product makers don't understand the negative impacts of premature convergence. Why wouldn't we want a clear plan and a clear deliverable? It is on you to educate them. And once trust/confidence has dropped, you’ll need to set your pride aside and rebuild it.
Nothing is worse than a there-but-not-there strategy that doesn't help guide decision making. It kicks off a wicked loop…..read the rest
Thinking in Systems
This book is a classic that I started reading a long time ago, but just recently got around to finishing. If you haven’t read it yet, here’s why you should.
As a PM, it’s helpful to work at different levels. It’s easy to get lost in the details but you also need to zoom out every once in a while. One way to see the bigger picture is to imagine something at a “system” level. What is a system?
A system is an interconnected set of elements that is coherently organized in a way that achieves something. If you look at that definition closely for a minute, you can see that system must consist of three kinds of things: elements, interconnections, and a function or purpose.
From a business perspective, one of the best examples was penned by Walt Disney back in 1957. It’s a masterpiece in visualizing the synergies among business units and the power of reinforcing feedback loops.
Almost everything can be framed as part of a system.
Your team is a system
Your product is a system
Your organization is a system
If you want to improve these systems, you’ll need to understand the points of leverage.
For example, think about your team – a group of individuals working together to achieve a common goal. One of the leverage points is information flows. Are you withholding context from your engineering team that could help them better understand what they’re supposed to be building? Fix that, and watch how a simple action can create massive gains.
Think about your product – a group of capabilities designed and exposed to a human to help them do something better. What is the goal of your product? Could you reposition your value proposition and target a new segment of users? Simply changing the goal of your product can bring exponential impact without much need to actually touch the underlying technologies.
Thinking in systems is an important perspective to add to your analytical toolkit – and this book will help you get started.
That’s it for this month. Now I’m going to watch the NBA playoffs — you know, for work.
Sign up below if you want once-a-month updates curating the latest from the top minds in product sent directly to your inbox.