Prioritisation: The Ultimate Hamster Wheel – September Wrap

Prioritisation. The Product Managers’ pain. 

From RICE to MoScoW to WSJF, there are no shortages of methods. If you google prioritisation, you’ll probably find around 30 different frameworks. But how useful are they? Are they too theoretical? How readily can they be applied?

Sometimes, it can feel like we are on a hamster wheel, constantly running in circles. 

According to Phoebe Peck (Redcat), prioritisation is like running or a sport – it takes constant practice. Phoebe shared some of her real world experiences, with a few useful tips thrown in to boot.

Preparation and Training

Why do we need to prioritise? No matter how large our teams, or how infinite our resources may be, we cannot work on everything all the time. Therefore prioritisation is a critical part of the job.

What do we need to make the best decisions? Facts and information. But no matter how much time we spend prioritising, as soon as we finish, it’s outdated. So it’s important we check our compass regularly. Keep in touch with our stakeholders, high and low. To continually collect information, to understand what is important.

Truly listen, and keep our ego in check. Somebody else might have new information, or a better context.

The Event – Putting It Into Action

With all the different information we’re taking in, how do we work out what is important? Or more important? And what about the inherent biases we all have? How do we remove subjectiveness or neutralise strong opinions? 

One way that Phoebe shared, was the following matrix.

Whether we use this matrix, or another tool, it can be beneficial to have some structure around the process, to create a common set of rules. Something so people can understand the method. But keep it simple. Avoid making things too complicated. We want it easy enough for anybody to understand and do. The goal is transparency.

If things are equally important, then add some heart, and humanise the decision for sequencing. Understand the business well enough, so that we can justify the decision of why something should come first.

Post Event Review

There is no perfect model. No one size fits all method. We need to understand our environment, our company, our customers and users. What’s right for one company may not be for another. 

A continual balancing act between short term tactics and long term strategy. Launching new features and addressing technical debt from the past. Between what customers want and business objectives. 

The decisions are not binary. They are not one or the other. But a balance between all these different aspects. 

Give yourself some slack – prioritisation is hard and can be relentless. It takes a lot of practice and discipline. Keep training, it does get easier.

Thanks

Thank you to Phoebe for sharing, and to A Cloud Guru for hosting us online. A Cloud Guru’s mission is to teach the world to cloud, and they’re hiring!

Slides & Video

October event – Creating Buy-In

Creating Buy-In: how to foster cooperation and shared commitment to ideas and initiatives.

So much of what we do requires the cooperation and commitment of others. Getting others onboard isn’t simply about getting projects across the line. It’s about harnessing the full creative potential of teams and fostering a culture of shared ownership and accountability. This requires a careful balance of positive influence, while at the same time allowing plenty of space co-creation.

In this practical session, Simon introduces his ‘3M’ framework for generating positive influence and explores the most common pitfalls of building buy-in and how to avoid them.

Our speaker:


Simon Dowling – is a leading thinker on creating and leading collaborative teams and workplaces. As a speaker, facilitator and educator, he works closely with leaders and teams from some of Australia’s most interesting organisations, equipping them with the inspiration and know-how to build strong, highly engaged teams.

Simon possesses a unique blend of creativity and pragmatism – something reflected in his past experience. He began his career as a commercial lawyer, and is also an experienced improviser, regularly performing with leading improvisation company Impro Melbourne. He was a regular cast member on Working Dog’s hit TV show Thank God You’re Here. For the past 20 years, Simon has been working with leaders across a wide range of industries, helping them to tap the collective genius of their people.

His clients include AFL, Bega Foods, Bendigo & Adelaide Bank, BUPA, Envato, Mercedes Benz, myob, SEEK, Telstra Health and University of Melbourne. He is also a member of the Australian faculty of DukeCE – the executive education arm of the internationally acclaimed business school at Duke University.

Simon is the author of Work with Me: How to get people to buy into your ideas

RSVP now!

Thanks to A Cloud Guru for being our online host. A Cloud Guru’s mission is to teach the world to cloud, and they’re hiring!

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Marketing does USPs and Product does not – August Wrap

Are Product people all that different from their Marketing colleagues? Other than Sales, Advertising, and Brand Messaging, what do Marketers actually do? For August, we delved into the world of marketing with Ellias Appel and Carleen Harawira.

What is Marketing?

Elias started with a quote:

The aim of marketing is to know and understand the customer so well, that the product or service fits them, and sells itself – Peter Drucker

In other words, Marketing is the art and science of understanding customers, and then trying to get them to buy your stuff.

Carleen agreed — Marketing is the art and science of getting and keeping customers. Make sure you leave some room for magic (or the art).

What is the Marketing approach?

Both Elias and Carleen started with marketing first principles — the Marketing Mix, or the 4 Ps of Marketing (Place, Price, Product and Promotion).

By interrogating the 4Ps, Marketers try to understand their customers, so that they can create a Unique Sales Proposition (USP) as the answer to their problems — getting your product in front of the right customers at the right price.

Carleen took us through a methodical Marketing process.

Market orientation:

Ultimately, as soon as you become an employee, you lose some customer perspective. That price is justified, right? That ad is cool. Biases have already started to creep in. Marketing orientation is about getting the customer perspective back. 

Segmentation:

Get to down specific segments. Who are your perfect customers? Who are your bad customers? You want to avoid averages.

The “Average” Australian has one testicle and one breast!

Targeting:

How do you want to approach your targeting? Micro targeting, such as Facebook or other social platforms, or mass marketing, such as television. There’s no right or wrong, but you need to work out what is best for you.

Positioning:

How should we position our products? There are a couple of trains of thought here, from Purpose, or what we stand for (the Simon Sinek school of thought) to Distinction, or when you think about us (from How Brands Grow by Byron Sharp).

(Brand) Codes:

The more you repeat elements of your branding, the more memory structures are built, which lead to associations, and then eventually will lead to sales and growth (eg, McDonalds).

Touch Points:

Where do you want to interact with your potential customers, and how? Through Third Parties? Social only? eCommerce via a website? A more traditional retail model?

Communications:

The actual execution of messages through your chosen mediums.

That’s the process… and then there’s a bit of luck.

How can Product and Marketing work together better?

Marketing and product should be tied at the hip. Create a common goal. Share your research, results and insights with each other. Create an infinity loop, and feed each other to become stronger and more effective.

Build cross-functional micro teams. Include an analyst in the mix.

Marketing is more than just Sales. Sales is like a toddler, and is immediate. Sales cannot do the slow burn or long term vision. But together, Product and Marketing can!

Thank you

Thanks again to Ellias and Carleen for sharing, and to A Cloud Guru for hosting us online. A Cloud Guru’s mission is to teach the world to cloud, and they’re hiring!

Slides

ProdAnon birthday talks!

Yes! November is our birthday!

Over the years, we’ve mixed it up with purely social birthday drinks to give you more time to get to know each other (& Liz and I are not adverse to a lovely cocktail or wine) or the usual speaker topic session – this year we have a new plan.

One of the big reasons Product Anonymous exists is to share knowledge. Another reason we exist is to grow the local talent which includes giving people the opportunity to gain experience in front of a crowd & crafting a talk. We’re super proud that several ProdAnon speakers have gone on talk at large conferences.

So for November.. it’s time to dip your toe in the water. Yes, you!

We want you to present – for 5 minutes. It’s not a long talk, you won’t have to answer 15 questions after, nor do you need to create earth-shattering beautiful slides.

What you need to do is know what you want to express, to teach, to explain, to get ProdAnon folks excited about.

You need to be able to communicate that in FIVE minutes (warning: Liz will have her whistle). And you need to be available to do this on Thursday evening November 26th.

This is not a ‘lightning talk’. You do not have to change slides every 15 seconds and have only 20 slides. It’s your 5 minutes. It can be fun. It can be serious. It could be an insight you want to share.

What to do next?

  1. Mull over your idea and submit it by EOD Saturday, October 26th
  2. Those chosen will be contacted on Friday, October 30th (yes, this is encouraging you to spend Melbourne Cup wknd working on your preso!)

Submit your talk idea!

How will talks be selected?

  1. Appeal of the topic to ProdAnon people
  2. Your sworn ability to be able to use google slides and deliver the slides the week before the event

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Our sponsor: A big thanks to A Cloud Guru for sponsoring! Our mission is to teach the world to cloud. Find your place at ACG.

September event – Prioritisation: The ultimate hamster wheel

Have you ever felt like your life has become all about juggling the priorities? And you’re just on this hamster wheel…

Phoebe Peck has been on that wheel – and knows you need to stop. From juggling near term to long term priorities, Phoebe will be share tried and tested strategies for running in a straighter-ish direction while recognising detours, temptations and pitfalls along the way.

She will share her experiences on prioritisation including from a lighter perspective because let’s face it if we don’t laugh we will cry! (or go insane…)

Conversation & sharing of your tips will be encouraged!

See you on Thursday, September 24th RSVP

About Phoebe:
Phoebe Peck is passionate about hospitality, technology, people and leaving positive imprints on the world through the decisions we make and the actions we take.

Phoebe is Head of Product for the industry-leading hospitality SaaS Company, Redcat. Her talents in product and technology have greatly benefited from a strong operational and managerial background in best of breed quick-service restaurants, and fast-casual hospitality business.

Phoebe values teamwork, perseverance, work ethic and honesty. Phoebe attributes her professional success to her internal drive, continuous learning and working with amazing people.

Phoebe lives in the heart of Tigerland, is a mother of 2, is very competitive, always up for a challenge and has ambitions to one day present at TED.

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Our sponsor: A big thanks to A Cloud Guru for sponsoring! Our mission is to teach the world to cloud. Find your place at ACG.

Product Anon Dumplings

Our next dumpling session is Tuesday September 8th. RSVP here.

What is this dumpling thing?

Back in the day when we could squeeze 10 people onto a small table, occasionally we’d gather to eat dumplings and talk.

Since March 2020, we’ve been running monthly dumpling sessions online. Bring your dinner, hang out, meet some folks and chat.

Warning: sometimes these turn into weird cooking shows. It started with the frothy Dalgona coffee thing then mug cake and there’s rumours of sticky date pudding one day.

Photo by Abhishek Sanwa Limbu on Unsplash

Find your ‘Get out of Hell’ cards here – July Wrap

With everything becoming remote and distributed, businesses are forced to adapt. Explore new opportunities, or find a silver lining. The alternative to wither and become a mere memory. And we’re no different.

Taking advantage of lockdown, we had Jock Busuttil make his long awaited return to Product Anonymous in July, all the way from London, to share some of his experiences of an all too familiar place – product management hell.

The Symptoms – What does Product Hell look like?

There are many common indicators that you may not be in the healthiest product environment, such as:

  • Not allowed to talk to customers. The complete opposite of continuous discovery, and not validating your ideas with customers. From concept, to build, to launch – talking to customers is always important. 
  • Unable to plan, because you’re too busy dealing with emergencies. Although it is important to put out fires, it can also wear you down. It’s equally important, if not more, to know which direction you’re heading. Having enough foresight to know which areas you need to invest your time and resources in, and which areas or features should be retired. 
  • Screw research, let’s build. The build trap. Do we really need to say anything else on this one?
  • But we have OKRs – hundreds of them! If you have too many Objectives and Key Results, which ones actually matter? And if different business units have different objectives, and lack of transparency across the rest of the organisation, how do you actually align with each other? 
  • Flip-Flopping between Very Important Goals. Do the goal posts keep moving back and forth from quarter to quarter? Oh no, that’s not important anymore, let’s move on to something else instead. Maybe keep your research handy for the next time it becomes a priority again. Probably next quarter.
  • No buy-in for my product strategy. If you’ve done all the adequate research, and validated those assumptions, and know the balance points – who better to drive the strategy? Or should we go by the opinions of everybody else instead?
  • Each board member has their own interpretation of the strategy. Whether this is to minimise the effort for their teams or maximise the benefit for their team, neither is healthy, nor going to help to align everybody’s efforts.

The Causes – Why are you in Product Hell?

So you’ve discovered you’re in Product Hell. Population: one. But how did you get here? Here are some possible and likely causes:

  • No clear corporate strategy or goals. Is your company vision to be the market leader in something generic? A good corporate strategy should be rooted in customer outcome. A true north star to align all your efforts. But what does a clear corporate strategy even look like? Here’s a fantastic example from Tesla.
The Secret Tesla Motors Master Plan – 2006
  • Lack of alignment. To ensure alignment, you may need to prioritise the things to focus on. But prioritising is also about calling out the things that you won’t be spending energy on, right now. 
  • Wrong strategy (for now). You may have a strategy that has worked for you in the past. But that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s still the right strategy now. Have the market conditions shifted? Has the competitor landscaped changed? Nobody, including Zoom, were planning for Covid to happen.
  • Wrong measures of success. NPS, Revenue and Market share are not tied to human outcomes. These metrics could change due to external factors, without you doing anything. 
  • Scared of user research. Too many companies are scared to approach their customers to see how they are doing. How do you uncover unmet and underlying needs if you never talk to your customers?

Getting out – How to escape Product Hell?

Now that you’ve identified the problem, what can you do about it?

  • Start with real user research. Deepen your customer insights. Understand their needs. The problems they need solved And what they would be willing to pay for. Like all things product, it starts with the customer. 
  • Make your product strategy before somebody does it for you. Gather the research. What does the data suggest, and what needs further validation? Ensure you use the right research for the right situation – different techniques will have different biases built in. Be aware of the biases, so that you can balance your view with other research techniques. Use the insights to form a compelling product vision and strategy. 
UX Research Methods – Nielsen Norman Group
  • Influence the corporate strategy with your product strategy. Talk to your leaders to understand each of their concerns and motivations. Create a shared and aligned vision, and get them to agree with your product strategy. It might be a long path, however, it can be done. 
  • Call out your Board’s lack of alignment… tactfully. This could also apply to your executive leadership team, or any other management layer or structure in your organisation. Warning: Proceed with caution!

Jock Busuttil, Founding Director at Product People

Jock is a freelance head of product, author and conference speaker, having spent nearly two decades working with technology companies to improve their product management practices. From startups to multinationals, his clients include the BBC, Brainmates, and the UK’s Ministry of Justice and Government Digital Service (GDS). In 2012, Jock founded Product People Limited – a product management services and training company. And his book, The Practitioner’s Guide To Product Management was published in 2015. You can find more of Jock on LinkedIn and Twitter, or on his blog – I Manage Products.

Watch for Jock’s upcoming Product Management masterclasses in October. Keep an eye here for details: https://productpeo.pl/linktree/

Thank you to our sponsor: A Cloud Guru

We’re on a mission to teach the WORLD to cloud. A Cloud Guru is the largest online cloud school on the planet. Our training feels more like logging into Netflix or Spotify – it’s entertaining and playful. The people are the #1 reason employees say they stay at ACG. We’re a quirky, tight-knit crew that cares about our customers and each other. No egos here. Our leaders encourage thoughtfulness, compassion, being humble, and we have a bit of fun along the way.

Slides & Video

All the events this August!

Product Anonymous has 3 events this month! Call us crazy but maybe it’s because we’re suffering from no Product Camp (which is normally this month).

What Are The 7Ps of Product?

Up next is a special event with Leading the Product Thursday on August 13th. What are the 7Ps of Product is a preview of what’s to come at the September 2nd conference.

Brainmates CEO and Co-Founder, Adrienne Tan, will introduce the 7 Ps of Product and then be joined by three speakers from the Conference for a panel discussion on the 7 Ps and their relevance and importance to Product Management today. Adrienne will be joined by:

Klaas Raaijmakers, Head of Product, Stan (Promotion)
Caitlin Blackwell, Head of Product, Seek (Problem)
Jeremiah Lee, Engineering Manager, Invision (Practice)

Each speaker will be tackling one of the Ps during the Conference and will give us a sneak peek at the key insights from their upcoming talk as well as their overall take on the 7 Ps.

Details here (follow the LTP link to register) and grab your conference tickets here.

Marketing Does USP. Product Does Not

Earlier this year, there was a request on the ProdAnon Slack to explore Marketing 101. This session will explore marketing, the relationship between our two groups and what this means for folk in Product.

Some of the things we hope you will learn from the session:

– How do marketing & product work well together?
– What are the different skill sets/strengths that each bring to the team which help the outcomes?
– If Product doesn’t have a great relationship with marketing now, how can that be improved? Actions to take? Conversations to have?
– Even if the relationship is good, how can they work better together?

Our speakers: Ellias Appel and Carleen Harawira and a big thanks to A Cloud Guru for sponsoring.

See you on Thursday, August 27th RSVP

Dumplings!

And the third event… that was last night! Back in the day, we occasionally had dumpling sessions where we’d get together to share a meal. During COVID, we’ve been doing this virtually. What has started as BYO dumplings and chat once a month has morphed to include making of mug cakes, coffee and a range of household consumable convos (yes.. never quite sure where it’s going!) Join the dumplings channel on Slack to keep up to date on next event.

Unlocking your next Startup Product Job – June Wrap – Part 2

After holding a variety of Senior Product roles across many different companies, building product teams from the ground up, rising to Chief Product Officer at the startup accelerator and incubator, BlueChilli, and even founding 2 startups herself – Claire Sawyers knows a thing or two about working in startups. 

Why work in a Startup?

Are you sick of the daily corporate grind? There are plenty of up-sides to working in a startup. 

  • Autonomy: the empowerment to go get stuff done.
  • Career progression: moving between roles can be easier in a smaller pool.
  • Mission driven: more than just a pay cheque, and working on something that really matters to you.
  • Less of a cog in the machine: in a smaller environment, it can be easier to see how your efforts directly contribute to the outcomes.
  • Learn and try new things: with a smaller team, and less formal structures, there’s the need to be more T-shaped, and getting in there yourself – a great way to experiment and learn.

The Challenges

But it’s not all roses.

Corporate life has its benefits too. From stability, (sometimes) better budgets, to be able to freely hire specialists, access to mentors and supporting functions. If you’re leaving these behind, be wary of the potential:

  • Stress;
  • Workloads; and 
  • Job security.

If you’re not deterred by the above, and working in a startup sounds like something for you, then the next hurdle is what you’re up against:

  • Intense competition: Claire once received 250 candidates for just one role. Applicants from across the globe, including Silicon Valley.
  • Startups not knowing what they want: Sometimes, product roles can come about in strange ways in a startup. From the board telling the founder they need to step back and focus on investments, to copying and pasting product descriptions from LinkedIn. 
  • How does your experience read: Don’t assume your experience is perceived the same way in the startup world compared to the corporate. What does 10 years experience at the same company say? Comfortable and unable to handle challenges? Or lots of internal opportunities to try new things?

Applying

What are startups looking for in candidates? Take the time to understand your customer (the hirer), so that you can position yourself effectively.

  • Curiosity / Lateral thinker
  • Passion
  • Energy
  • Autonomous / Self Starter

So with this in mind, how do you go about applying?

Highlight your experience – breadth and diversity. Use your initiative. Show your desire. Reach out to the company directly. Or find a referral. 

Make sure your CV is a good user experience. Get your CV reviewed by someone in a similar seniority and/or style of company.

Interviewing

Like any interview, make sure you are prepared. 

  • Do your research. 
  • Use the product.
  • What are the market conditions.
  • Have a point of view.
  • What relevant experience do you have that will make you a star?
  • Have some questions prepared.

Final checklist

Before you accept any role, a few things to consider:

  • Do you believe in the mission? Through the ups and downs that are inevitable with any role, belief in the mission is what will get you through the tough times.
  • Are you aligned to the founder? The founder is likely to be heavily invested in the mission, and may have strong opinions of what should be done. And how. They may be your toughest stakeholder.
  • Is there enough support? As mentioned above, with limited budgets, workload and stress can also be part of startup life. Do you have the right support to be able to succeed?
  • Are there enough challenges? Nobody wants to be in auto-pilot. Are there enough challenges to keep you engaged?

Thanks again to Claire for all the startup advice, much of which can also be applied to larger companies, and best of luck with your next job search.

Resources

For a different perspective on startups, read about product leadership in corporates and startups.

See the slides from the session.

Thank you to our host: A Cloud Guru

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Thank you to A Cloud Guru for hosting us online again this month. A Cloud Guru’s mission is to teach the world to cloud. The largest online cloud school on the planet, with training that feels more like logging into Netflix or Spotify – it’s entertaining and playful. 

Scaling Product Leadership – June Wrap – Part 1

Steven Bladeni moved from strategy to product leadership within a large corporate, to leading internal incubators, before transitioning into Head of Product and Chief Operating Officer roles in the startup world. Steven chatted with us, and shared some thoughts on product leadership in corporate and startup environments.

Building the Team

Regardless of the size of your organisation, as you move into product leadership, there are some universal truths – your success now depends on your team. More about team achievements and performance. Less about your personal accolades. 

Your first step is to build your team.

Unless you are starting your team from scratch, in both startups and corporates, you will inherit team members. So you will need to get to know them, and assess their fit. 

Then the differences between corporate and startups start to become more apparent.

Corporates

  • Larger budgets, and ability to hire specialists.
  • More mentoring.
  • Access to support functions, like HR, Legal, etc. 

Startups

  • Limited budgets, and more T-shaped generalists that can span across functions.
  • More hands on training.
  • A lot more do-it-yourself – want to hire? Go write that job ad.

Advice

Get to know your team, their strengths, weaknesses and aspirations. Where are the gaps? Will you fill them with another hire, training or mentoring? If you can, get a specialist for the things that really matter to you.

Create the Right Culture

Now that you’ve put your team together, how will they operate? It’s time to set the culture. Collaboration is almost a given. But how do you create a healthy tension, and ensure it is effective? And does that look different in different organisations?

Collaboration is encouraged, but sometimes too much. Seeking consensus will get you there, but sometimes it will just take a lot longer to get there. 

Corporates

  • Leaders prefer to control, rather than empower. Whether due to governance or legacy, the control and accountability can be hard shackles to break.
  • Challenging the status quo is accepted, within limits. You can design a safe place within your team, but as you move wider, more politics come into play.

Startups

  • The founder cannot do it all themselves, so it is essential to empower staff. Set the team in the right direction, and let them go. 
  • Amongst a small team, people are less likely to question the authority of the founder.

Advice

Trust the person with the most domain knowledge.

Manage your Stakeholders

No matter where you work, there will always be stakeholders to work with. And there will always be some decisions that are made, that you don’t agree with. Whether that be from an executive leadership team, or a founder. Either way, you need to know when to suck it up, and move on. But also get your team to move on.

Corporates

  • There will usually be more stakeholders in corporate. From brand, legal, support, sales, and maybe even the cleaner. 
  • With all these additional stakeholders, there is much more rigor to the decisions. 
  • Slower decisions

Startups

  • Although there may be fewer stakeholders in a startup, it could be just one key stakeholder – the CEO or Founder, who is passionate about the product, and with strong opinions of what and how things should be done.
  • Less process and rigour, which can make for faster decisions.

Which path is better?

There’s no right or wrong answer here. Both corporate and startups have their benefits and drawbacks. 

Corporate environments can give you the opportunity to learn from more experienced leaders, expand your toolkit and build good habits. Startups allow you to utilise your toolkit, and embed product thinking at an early stage of a company, and take it to the next level. 

It’s more a question of which is a better fit for you, the stage in your career and what you are looking for to be fulfilled.

Thanks again to Steven for sharing the insights!

Resources

You can see the slides from the session and below is the video. Plus find our summary of our other speaker, Claire Sawyers, on how to land a product job in a startup.

Our Sponsor:

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We’re on a mission to teach the WORLD to cloud. A Cloud Guru is the largest online cloud school on the planet. Our training feels more like logging into Netflix or Spotify – it’s entertaining and playful. The people are the #1 reason employees say they stay at ACG. We’re a quirky, tight-knit crew that cares about our customers and each other. No egos here. Our leaders encourage thoughtfulness, compassion, being humble, and we have a bit of fun along the way.

Up Next:

Our next session is this Thursday June 25th when we team up with Leading the Product for their lightning talk pitch fest! It’s too late to put your hand up to pitch your idea though it’s a great evening to support your fellow product people and get an idea about what it’s like to speak at LTP. RSVP now!