For our last session in 2020, we are throwing open the doors (virtually) and getting our community more involved in giving talks. We love giving people the opportunity to talk and Thursday, November 26th, you’ll get to hear short talks from 7 people.
This is a good time to remind everyone that we are always looking for speakers so if there’s someone you think we should approach or you are interested in giving a talk, reach out to Liz or me (or both).
Blending his experience as a corporate lawyer and a seasoned improv performer, Simon Dowling has become a leading collaboration trainer, helping teams to become inspired and highly-engaged. For our October session, Simon took us through an interactive discussion on creating buy-in.
Can you imagine getting the people in your organisation to align and commit to initiatives, not because they’re told to or have to. But because they choose to, and want to, with willing and enthusiastic energy. Moving from a place of authority to autonomy.
It’s no surprise what can happen in this type of environment:
People feel valued and happier;
Increased trust, creating buy-in and a willingness to be helpful and co-operate;
Collective positive energy leading to productivity and motivation;
Unlocked creativity, with better ideas and better solutions;
A team culture of “us” not “I”, so many hands make light work;
Momentum to move forward with passion;
In short, magic happens!
But so what?
In the world of corporate, we often find ourselves pushed towards finding the pragmatic solution. Where is the information and data driving us? We spend our time building a case. Looking through data. Preparing decks. While that is also important, there is a more crucial question we need to answer.
So what? Why should I even care?
Emotion and mood are generally under-indexed in the workplace. We need to be able to put down the spreadsheet, and articulate why we need to pursue an idea. Why does it matter to our organisation? Why should this be important to us on a personal level?
Whether we use a model, an analogy or a physical representation, painting a vivid picture to capture our hearts can be a powerful tool to rally support.
Bring on the No
Once our team understands why our idea is important, another thing to tackle is the WIIFM – What’s in it for me? There’s a trap in pitching too much of the upside, without addressing the underlying concerns.
We need to create space, let go and let others in.
Stop pitching, and start co-creating.
Nobody knows all the answers. Here is where we can really harness the power of the wider group.
The last key step is putting things into motion.
Make it easy to start: What is the one thing we need to do within the first 48 hrs.
Build a habit: Make it easy to remember. Add it to our diary. Do we need to create a warning system to make sure we are still on track? Get others to come up with them.
Sustain: How do we avoid shiny object syndrome? Perhaps it’s to reassess if we should continue every 90 days?
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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).
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).
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?
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!
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!
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?
Mull over your idea and submit it by EOD Saturday, October 24th
Those chosen will be contacted on Friday, October 30th (yes, this is encouraging you to spend Melbourne Cup wknd working on your preso!)
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.