Monthly Archives: April 2013

Many business people eye away from uncertainty

 

Learning about all the frameworks in a MBA education and dealing with all the business cases leads to a situation where business people might feel over confident in understanding what is going on in the world. More than that: a lot claim to know better and to have a more strategic view than the Product Managers.

At the same time, the Product Manager is forced to justify his/her proposal in a situation where proof of evidence is simply not existing. And not only that: many assumptions are being made. If you forced design thinkers to prove every single of those assumptions, nothing will ever really happen. It is all about intuition and iteration with real customers. It is about dealing with uncertainty. Really dealing with uncertainty – not just pretending to do so.

“The Designful Company” is a great book. It also describes the situation of the earth not being entirely discovered. Maps would only cover part of the globe, many white areas are still left. There are some people who are attracted by those and who are willing to “fight the dragons”. And others shy away.

Digital has created even more white spaces than ever before. The world is full of new opportunities. So why do many business people don´t conquer them? Well it is because of the uncertainty they would have to admit to be existent.

If you have an idea about your target market and a top level understanding of what product you want to build you still have the challenge to build it. Building it from scratch is hard. You can copy cat similar products or you can just tweak your existing UI – both feel more comfortable than jumping into the cold water.

And now imagine the product visionary coming in with her/his ideas. Not using what is out there already but trying to build new solutions to existing problems. And now try to figure out your own emotions in such a situation. You don´t understand the solution, it is different from what you have experienced before. Would you leave your framework castle to deal with it or shoot it down from behind your safe (business) walls? Up to you to decide!

It is difficult for Product Managers to think business

 

Translation_Needed

Why do founder CEOs with strong product management skills have difficulties when their companies need scaling? Why are product managers often perceived as the guys who don’t understand “business”? Why is is often so frustrating to manage stakeholders if you are a Product Manager?

I have asked myself this type of questions pretty often. Actually, at times I felt so far away from business that I was proud of being an idealistic advocate of our users. I found excitement in challenging the business colleagues by presuming I had the better (because user related) arguments in discussions. And yes, it is true that there are many articles about this topic. One of my employees pretty often asked me to be less “ideologic” and my strategy papers etc. were often perceived as kind of “bible”. Personally I believe this has been and still is a defensive move of the function product. Let´s try to understand the different historical phases of product management:

PHASE I (TACTICAL MARKETING)

Product was simply one of the four p´s in the marketing mix. Product Managers got a list of features they had to build and to release. That´s it.

PHASE II (STRATEGIC MARKETING)

Marketing became more and more a philosophy for companies to be truly consumer centric. It is the moment where marketing started to ask for seats at the executive table.

PHASE III (R&D COMPLEXITY)

Latest with the arrival of digital, products became too complex to be built based on top down specification. The introduction of agile methodologies has changed they way R&D needs to be led.

PHASE IV (STRATEGIC PRODUCT MANAGEMENT)

With all the agile teams led by Product Managers a new level of organizational challenge arrived: how to make sure all teams are working towards the same goal? Traditional general managers often fail to manage R&D because they are not seasoned Product Managers. They need “help” in steering those teams. The only way to inspire those teams is to have a clear product vision instead of asking for simple features to be built. There is translation needed. Otherwise there will be no real link between general management and R&D and the company will not be successful.

So, if you experience Product Managers not embracing your corporate strategy, this might be due to the fact that she/he is not willing and/or able to challenge it. It might be a comfort zone related issue. On the other hand side, it is always hard to leave the area of your own functional expertise and to broaden your view. It is like a nail that has been driven into a plank and then needs to expand in order to make a real hole…

Broadening_Business_Ambition

 

A big question remains open: how to broaden your view as a Product Manager? I have chosen to do a MBA for this. But if you have colleagues with a solid consulting background and openness towards design thinking this might also be very valuable.