Using Mental Models for Product Success – November Wrap

Can you believe that another year has flown by? With so much happening, it’s not surprising that it has gone by so quickly. Eight meet-ups, ranging from roadmaps to Wardley Maps, exploring continuous discovery and mental models, diving into OKRs and NPS, and putting ourselves in the shoes of some entrepreneurs. Amongst all this goodness, we also had another Leading the Product Conference and Product Camp!

For our final event of the year, Tafida Negm, an independent Human-Centred Researcher and Designer with a background in Marketing and Psychology, took us through the Mental Models framework by Indi Young.

The Problem Space and the Solution Space

Most of us will be familiar with Gartner’s Design Thinking, Lean Start Up, & Agile Delivery diagram. However, according to Indi, that’s all part of the Solution Space where past work informs future work. Why do we feel so comfortable here? Because we’re rewarded for ideas – and we’re rewarded for speed of delivery.

With mental models, we try to move earlier in the cycle and focus on the person and what they are trying to achieve.

  • What are they thinking?
  • How are they reasoning their way towards their intent?
  • What are they feeling?
  • What are their beliefs that underpin their (in)decision or actions?

If we can understand this & develop true empathy, then we can have a better opportunity to design an aligned solution and have the customer think:

‘Wow, it’s like that product was made for me’

What are Mental Models?

This is a bit of a loaded question, as it is applied in so many different contexts, from psychology, to machine learning and behavioural perspectives, there are little different nuances.

Indi Young defines them as: “Mental models give you a deep understanding of people’s motivations and thought-processes, along with the emotional and philosophical landscape in which they operate.”

You may have seen them represented as a skyline, but we’ll delve into that a little more in a moment.

Listening Sessions, Cognitive Empathy and Patterns of Intent

Tafida led us through a few exercises because what better way to learn than to get hands-on? We started with listening sessions, where we used active listening to try to develop cognitive empathy. 

The aim of cognitive empathy is to gain that deep understanding of people. You want to understand so well that you could walk in their shoes and make decisions exactly as they would.

How many listening sessions should you do? As many as you can, until there are no new themes coming through.

After conducting listening sessions, it becomes time to document and synthesise the results by grouping or looking for patterns based on intent (which creates the towers in the skyline visual). We group the towers into mental spaces.

Next comes identifying the different mental spaces that people are going through. Then you can start arranging the concepts into your own skyline.

Once you have built your mental model, which includes the thinking styles that people go through, you can use it in many ways:

  • Map your organisation’s support underneath the respective towers to show where you have gaps.
  • Overlay competitor capability for analysis.
  • Broaden your market by supporting more thinking styles.
  • Overlay other data (usability metrics)
  • Many more…

When to use Mental Models?

There is a range of scenarios where researching Mental Models can be useful, such as:

  • When you want to innovate in a new direction;
  • Strategise broader and farther than your current solution;
  • When you spend a lot of time re-architecting / re-inventing;
  • When your existing user research is fragmented; or
  • You recognise you are out of touch with your audience:
    • You think everyone is your user
    • Make-believe and assumptions drive design decisions
    • No improvements after test and iterate cycles.

Another great benefit is the research can be re-used for other problems, as we’re not focusing on solution space.

Resources and Further Reading

Tafida Negm’s key takeaways from Indi Young’s Mental Models Methodology

Thank you Envato for hosting our last event of 2019, and all our Prod Anon volunteers that have helped throughout the year.

envato

The next Product Anonymous will be February 2020. Sign up for the newsletter, follow on Twitter or Meetup to stay in touch over the break. Have a festive amazing couple months!!

September Wrap – Net Promoter Score (NPS): Science or Pseudoscience?

Over the years, Net Promoter Score (NPS) has become the default question to measure and maximise value. But is it right? Is it true? Daniel Kinal joined us to share his thoughts.

Where did NPS come from?
Back in 2003, Fred Reichheld introduced the concept to the world. He felt the current measures of loyalty were too convoluted and complicated. So he did his own study, with surprising results, even to him. What he came up with, Net Promoter Score – the one metric that was supposed to have the strongest correlation to company success.

Why should it work?
The more likely you are to advocate for a brand, the more people will be willing to trial the product, therefore reducing your acquisition costs. Also, those advocates are more likely to be repeat customers and increasing their lifetime customer value. Score. Double score!

Some caveats:

  • Simply irrelevant in some industries
  • Not predictive in a monopoly or near-monopoly conditions
  • Data analysed was historical, not future
  • Unconvincing replication studies.
  • Highly volatile measure
  • Obscures critical information

Is there a correlation? Well, yes. Is it good as a predictor for future success? Well, maybe not as much. In fact, in one study, NPS only explained 38% of future growth.

Bastardisation
If you game your scores, what do you really achieve? From colour coding, nudging your scores, and filtering out negative results. What are you actually able to learn?

Is there an upside?
Yes, some compelling aspects of NPS include, it is relatively cheap, fast, simple; and well accepted.

Already using NPS? Make the most of your data.

  • Don’t focus purely on the number.
  • Measure brand or full product experience rather than feature or interaction
  • Measure longitudinally and conduct trend rather than a point in time analysis
  • Keep it as scientific as you can (randomisation, third party research)
  • Compare your NPS to direct competitors
  • Remember what you are measuring (loyalty and propensity to evangelise, not product satisfaction).
  • Analyse the qualitative feedback
  • Collect actionable data too, such as customer satisfaction.

For a shorter version of Daniels’s talk please find this recording from his presentation at Web Directions. Here are the slides from the evening.

Thank you to Medibank for hosting, and all our Prod Anon volunteers for helping on the night, Nadia Gishen, Irene Toh, Marija Becker, Yau and Steve Cheah for this write-up.

https://twitter.com/product_anon/status/1177141467384385537

Getting more women to present at conferences – Product Camp 2019

Sarah Mitchell

By Natalie Yan-Chatonsky

Sarah Mitchell, the champion for Leading the Product (LTP) Melbourne conference, asked the ProductCamp Melbourne community how she can pave the way for more women to speak at the conference.

In curating the speakers, she’s found there’s no shortage of local and international men keen to snap up the opportunity but female speakers are much harder to come by. 

Sarah’s goal is to curate a diverse group of speakers to make it the best possible conference. Even after 5 years of LTP, it continues to be a challenge to get more female thought-leaders to agree to speak when invited, let alone respond to her call for applications to presenters.

She asked the group for their thoughts on how we can encourage more female product managers can step up and speak publicly. 

We had a robust conversation which clearly highlighted that many women in the product management community would love the opportunity to present but need some support in the months and years leading up to being able to speak at a conference with a big audience.

What is holding women back from talking? 

The discussion group shared their views on the challenges for women to be in a position to speak at a conference:

  • Imposter syndrome – people are worried about whether their topic is good enough and/or relevant to the audience.
  • Perfectionism – feel that they may not have the authority to talk so don’t even feel brave enough to initiate a conversation in a smaller forum. For as long as they don’t speak up even at work, then they will never be ready to advance to speak at a meetup or conference.
  • Anxiety and fear of public speaking – some expressed that they were unsure about how to conquer their fears to ‘go for it’. 
  • Lack of experience – without videos or a history of previous speaking engagements makes it harder to get their initial speaking opportunities.
  • Lack of awareness – that there’s an open call for speakers for many conferences – ideally they get advance notice and know that they will have plenty of support and opportunity to practice in a safe environment.
  • Prioritising other activities – not having enough time to hone the craft of public speaking.
  • Unaware what they need to do to improve their public speaking skills – if they don’t get feedback on why they didn’t get invited or their presentation proposal didn’t get accepted, they end up ruminating on all the possible reasons that could be wrong with them, which doesn’t encourage them to keep finding new opportunities to speak.
  • Can’t find a mentor – would like to find someone to learn from but don’t know how to get one that’s right for them or willing to invest time in helping them improve their public speaking.

Iva Biva, a service designer who has been designing a solution to get more women involved in sport saw the parallels between women’s participation in sport with participation as speakers at conferences. She said that it’s the anxiety that’s stopping women from participating – the self-doubt and feeling that they are not good enough.

Here are some of the suggestions that the group came up with on how to address the above challenges:

  • Small support groups – Create a safe and supportive spaces for women to present their ideas in front of a small audience, as well as the opportunity to video and watch themselves 
  • Model examples – Increase opportunities for women to see other women speak.
  • Co-present – to take the pressure off a novice speaker as they build up their confidence and ability.
  • More guidance – conference/meetup organisers need to provide more guidance on what they are looking for, how to come up with topics that would be appealing to their audiences and specific feedback to those who missed out on how they can improve and reapply next time.
  • Mentoring – make it easier for people to find suitable mentors that will help them improve and affirm that they are on the right track to presenting well in front of an audience. 
  • Gain experience outside work through volunteering and pro bono projects.

Opportunities to get practice

The following groups provide lots of speaking opportunities:

Continue the conversation on the channel that we’ve just started:

Product Anonymous Slack Channel ->  #gettalking

Product Camp 2019 Wrap-up

Steve Bauer kicking off the 10th Product Camp Melbourne

Saturday August 24th was our 10th birthday and a big thank you to all the sponsors, speakers volunteers and attendees to made it a lovely day!

It is always a fantastic time when the tribe of people who care about making great products gets together and (if you ask me) Camp is the best day of the year for gaining new knowledge, sharing with others, meeting new people, catching up with friends and ex-colleagues and so much more.

Thanks to some amazing volunteers and attendees, we can share these notes from sessions you may have missed. If we’ve missed yours, add it in the comments. We’ll add more as volunteers send them in. 

Rebecca Jackson’s sketchnotes of several sessions during the day & notes

Remya Ramesh’s notes on Rich Mironov, Antony Ugoni, Andrea Ho, Chris Duncan, Amir Ansari and Georgia Murch

Nuvnish Malik‘s takeaways of the day including Antony Ugoni, Georgia Murch, Tom LeGrice, Amir Ansari & Josephine Maguire Rosier

Without sponsors, this day would not happen. This year we were excited to welcome:

Culture Amp logo

Continuous Discovery – June wrap-up

Caitlin Blackwell is the acting Head of Product for the candidate experience at SEEK. Caitlin joined us last Thursday to talk about continuous discovery and how SEEK is using this framework.

Caitlin talked to how you can generalise the product manager role into 2 areas – deciding what to build and then building it. Teresa Torres talks to how we have gotten really good at shipping quickly via Agile, Lean Startup and other frameworks. We haven’t had the same emphasis on deciding what to build – ie continuous discovery.

We risk wasted effort when we rush to building and don’t do the work to understand what is needed. We can build an MVP quickly but you might have to wait a while until you have a good enough sample size or feedback to keep moving forward or realise you don’t have the right solution.

Caitlin believes discovery is all about being able to make better decisions through the product process. There’s several reasons we make bad decisions (aka the villains) including lack of clarity on the problem, being overconfident, etc.

A part of Teresa Torres’ framework they use is opportunity maps. This visual mapping lets you clearly state the outcome you want (linked back to your OKRs of course!), show the customer needs and show several solutions that may help you reach the goal.

Speaking to customers is key. Caitlin said their teams (ux & product combined) do 5 customer interviews every fortnight with a standup at end of day to share insights with the rest of the team. It’s important to talk to customers to learn about them, not only test out ideas.

The map helps to visualise the situation though you still have work to do in order to decide which customer opportunity and solution to move forward with. After sizing the opportunity to decide which to explore, you should ideate & validate assumptions through experiments.

Caitlin walked through one example where the OKR was to increase the SAT score of a particular customer segment. She shared some of the tools and ways SEEK walks through continuous discovery. (See the slides at the end this article)

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Once you’ve decided which opportunity to go after, it’s time to ideate & validate. There are different tools you can use to experiment and test your ideas (slide 21 has a list).

A few tips:

  • Spend 5 minutes a day to brainstorm. Frequently spending a short time is less cognitively draining than an hour brainstorm!
  • Do what you can to learn quickly in order to move forward. Talking with 2 customers is better than no customers. You can still learn something from those 2 (sample size is important but you can learn and be smart about what you’re hearing from small numbers)
  • Map your assumptions! Decide how you validate/disprove each of them.

During the talk, Caitlin gave us a few examples of how using continuous discovery can help create better products.

First up a product fail. When launching a new product which employers did not have access to, they came up with an ‘access code’ solution process to assist. The team ran an experiment to test the process but didn’t test their assumptions enough before launching – particularly really questioning the desirability and usability of a long process. The sales team’s feedback from employers was it is difficult to change behaviour without showing the value of doing so.

A win… SEEK wanted to introduce the ability to search for jobs by commuting distance. They listed their assumptions, what data they needed to assess risk and how they’d get that quickly. Testing made them realise it’s not just distance in km that’s relevant to job seekers as 10k on a tram vs a highway trip is very different time wise. Experimenting allowed them to dig deeper into understanding the candidate need.

How can you get started with continuous discovery?

  • Talk to users frequently. Ask them how they use your product.
  • Decide what metric you want to shift. This could be your OKR.
  • When ideating, go broad. Go for quantity. You can narrow later.
  • Do some sort of assumption mapping before you start building. Even if it’s listing out assumptions without a framework.

To Learn More

Caitlin recommends the following:

Thank you!

A big thank you to Caitlin for sharing, for RMIT Online for hosting, the fantastic ProdAnon volunteers and all attendees!

Join us for our next events in July – The life and times of an entrepreneur and then our special event for Leading the Product – Pitchfest. See you there!

OKRs in Real Life – May wrap-up

Objectives & Key Results. Do they really deliver on the promise? Will they help you reach your goals?

We enlisted 3 product people to talk about their experience of using OKRs to see how they work in real life.

Our speakers:

  • Andrew Knibbe, Head of Product – Direct Hirer at Seek – has over 10 years of product management experience – cutting his product teeth in the early days alongside the ThoughtWorks team at Sensis followed by stints at Carsales and Flippa before moving to SEEK where he has had Head of Product roles across both the Consumer and Business side of the employment marketplace. He remains excited about what OKRs can mean for product teams (and customers!).
  • Wayne Allan, Technical Product Manager, REA – A muso turned software engineer turned product manager, I love creating things people love! Currently solving problems at realestate.com.au
  • Brad Dunn, Co-founder and Product Director at OHNO. Before that, he was the executive for Product & Customer Experience at Geo. For 7 years, Brad was the CEO of Nazori, a mobile product development business, where they worked with clients in 12 countries around the world including Samsung, Airbnb and Aesop.

The OKR Process

Andrew let us know that every team at Seek manages their OKRs a little bit differently & they’re currently in their 4th or 5th quarter of doing OKRs.

Andrew described a very team based approach (which is what Wayne also talked to). About 6 weeks before the end of the quarter, the teams receive some context on where the business is going & what they’re seeing in the market. About 2 weeks before the end of the quarter, the team incorporates their own research & knowledge to create draft OKRs for the next quarter. Drafts are reviewed to ensure they are aligned across the portfolio.

Setting OKRs is only part of the process – you need to understand how they went & learn from them. At Seek, there’s check-ins during the quarter (even just emails) and at the end of the quarter, teams present how they went for each OKR, what that means for the roadmap & strategy going forward and what the next set of OKRs are. REA has a mid-quarter update to ensure you’re on the right path or if there’s roadblocks that need to be cleared.

Wayne reminded us that part of the process is needing to educate your team about OKRs. Some people might think they are tied to performance or compensation so you need explain how the OKRs work. As the acceptance of OKRs builds across the business, you need to keep educating different groups.

And Brad noted they do not follow the usual quarterly OKR cycle! They work to a 6 week plan because that’s what works for them.

What works well…

There was clear agreement between our speakers that OKRs can create alignment between teams & stakeholders. They set expectations on what to do, not how to do it. They force prioritisation early on. They help people understand why you did X and not Y. Brad believes they are great for helping people believe in something & getting people to rally behind something.

Wayne believes they help speed up decision making as the product manager doesn’t have to answer everything. People on the team know where they are headed which drives performance within the team.

Based on what our speakers said, it seems they can also help raise issues. Use the OKRs to help show when a deliverable (that’s been delivered) needs some help. If a senior stakeholder says to build X, use the OKRs to manage if that’s the right thing to build.

Brad uses a combination of focusing on outcomes and PIRATE metrics to drive OKR setting.

What’s not working…

Creating your OKRs can be tough. You need to provide enough context for the teams to make good OKRs. Don’t have too many – recognise that even 3 objectives can be too many and 26 KRs is definitely too many. Changing the objectives every quarter can be too much context switching with not enough time to make real progress. They should not be a task list.

Wayne said they realised during planning that they had 3 objectives that were exactly the same thing but had been written in 3 different ways. The team used 3 1-hr sessions to get all their ideas on post-its, all the concrete ideas out and used that to help think at a higher level (& get the entire team onboard).

Make your OKRs part of everyday life can be a struggle. What do you do if half way through the quarter you’ve smashed it? or realised it’s not something you should do.

Measuring your OKRs needs to happen. Wayne advised us NOT to have a set & forget attitude. He suggested setting up your measurement plans in the 1st week. AND not to use surveys to measure everything as there will be survey fatigue from customers & internal folks.

Don’t focus totally on the OKR. Brad finds it fascinating that people really focus on the OKR.. what’s a good one, what’s a bad one. He sets them and then focuses on the outcome.

Mental Contrasting

Brad talked about the concept of ‘mental contrasting’ which consists of 4 items and the first 2 are tied to what an OKR is.

  • Wish – the inspiring thing you’re going for ie your objective
  • Outcome – your KR
  • Obstacle
  • Plan

With mental contrasting, you should take a little time to think about the obstacle. Just thinking about it, helps you act.

FYI, this is also called ‘WOOP‘ (easier to remember than mental contrasting!)

Questions

What’s the worse KR you’ve seen? Andrew: “TBC” Brad: putting in an OKR we knew we couldn’t meet – or vanity things.

How long does it take to pull together OKRs? Brad says it’s about 2 days (every 6 weeks). Andrew says it’s much less now that they have done this several times and they don’t change their objectives every time. Wayne has time boxed theirs to 3 hrs.

Wayne & Andrew also talked to the difference between old & new products. New products might need longer to work out the OKRs as opposed to tweaking existing products.

Thank you!

A massive thank you to Andrew, Wayne & Brad, our wonderful speakers for the evening! To our fantastic volunteers for the evening: Gwen, Steve C, Steve B, Rob, Neha, Nigel & Marija. To all attendees!!! And to Medibank for hosting!!!!

Slides: Andrew Knibbe / Seek

Slides: Wayne Allan / REA

Slides: Brad Dunn / OHNO

The What & Why of Wardley Maps – The wrap-up

I first heard of Wardley Mapping about 2 months ago and then the name started popping up in a few places which got us investigating it as a potential topic. Coming at it from zero knowledge, it seemed like the sort of thing product folks should know more about as it concerned both strategy & decision making.

Kim Ballestrin, Principal Consultant at elabor8, talked us through the basics and got us creating a map by thinking through the user needs capturing & protecting their personal data when using social media.

The What of Wardley Maps

A Wardley Map is a representation of the landscape & environment a company operates in. Its creator, Simon Wardley, believes a leader should have a map of the terrain to help guide their strategy.

The map consists of the activities the user needs to accomplish their goal charted across lifecycle, supply & demand.

You can use this framework in several ways, such as:

  • To think about your ongoing product development – from USP to commodities
  • A way of looking at the market or competitor landscape
  • Process and value chains from understanding where you have no standard process to defining a highly standardised process

The Whys of Wardley Maps

The map is a great way to create discussion. Once created, scan your map from top to bottom and left to right to determine if there are specific decisions that need to be made. Look for assumptions you’re making on the map or within your existing thought process.

Bonus – The How of Wardley Maps!

There’s a few principles to keep in mind when creating a Wardley Map:

  • The user need is your starting point
  • Keep it simple and on a small scale – don’t try to map EVERYTHING!
  • Your map will be imperfect – and that is completely ok!

How to create a Wardley Map

  1. Define your user’s needs.
  2. What are the activities the user takes in order for those needs to be met?
  3. Drill down into functions & features based on the visibility of the features to the end user.

Chart your functions & features from left to right along the evolutionary axes. The axes go from bespoke (genesis) on the left to generic (commodity) on the right.

Sketch in the linkages between the features & functions. This gives a good landscape of where you are right now.

Mapping out these connections and perhaps seeing where you may be too dominant in your commodity space & thus are at risk of disruption. Or understand that you’re too heavy in custom services, which bring high cost to serve & thus its time to consider streamlining the business by moving those to a product stage. These are some examples of ways a Wardley map helps you see the landscape and make better strategic decisions on what to do next as an organisation.

ProdAnon also had a bit of a surprise! The man himself, Simon Wardley, creator of this framework just happened to be in Melbourne Thursday evening and attended the session. Thank you Kim for inviting him!

Simon was kind enough to take some questions from the audience & talk through how he came up with his framework all those years ago.

Thank you to all the ProdAnon volunteers!! Ana Roy for fantastic note taking (& the great sketches!), Steve Cheah for the pix & elevator work and a these amazing people: Gwen D’souza, Marija Becker , Rob Finney, Richard Burke, Neha Jaiswal.

A massive thank you to DiUS for hosting the evening!

DiUS

Thank you Kim for the talk & organising the surprise appearance by Simon!

Resources

Strategy for Executives – Situation Normal, Everything Must Change

Simon Wardley’s ‘Wardley Mapping‘ site

F**k Roadmaps!!! – The good, the bad and the ugly – The wrap-up

We opened 2019 talking about roadmaps – a topic we had been asked in responses to our annual feedback to spend some more time on. We invited our speakers to share their different perspectives on roadmaps… and we heard come common themes to help understand how to keep a roadmap from controlling your life, and how to turn it into a fabulous communication and vision guide for inspiring your teams, plus some sage advice relevant to each organisation who took the stage that evening.

Below are some highlights from each talk plus the slides from each speaker – feel free to reach out to any of them if you would like to chat more. Plus we have added some references to other resources to read and explore at the end of this post.

David Bignall / Seek

David had much to share – ultimately not a fan but he did share some tips on how to help make them work for you rather than be a slave to them!

Roadmaps are a thing, every company has them so you will encounter them. David used this deck at Seek over a year ago to his team and people so proof they are a real thing, but after having the discussion has helped wean the team/group he is on off them.

For David when sharing what he thinks a roadmap is showed a map – because it is a journey to an unknown place.

“A document to capture and quickly convey a team’s big-picture goals, specific objectives and their imagined path to success” – Dave

 “A company roadmap is a document to capture and quickly convey its big-picture plans and objectives” – prodplan.com

“The first purpose is because the management of a company wants to make sure that the teams are working on the highest value items first, relevant to the company strategy.

The second purpose is because businesses may have date-based commitments. The roadmap is where they see and track those commitments.” Marty Cagan, SVPG

They can be useful – but they can also be a big waste of time – common issues:

  1. Intended goals/purpose are not stated or are not clear
  2. Often far to specific
    1. You can’t have that much foresight 9 months away
  3. They do not account for “time to value”. Iteration is almost always needed to realise the full value of a new product/feature – (David bravely shared an own example of a very bad roadmap!)
    1. Put item on there and them immediately moving on to the next thing
    2. Ignoring the process of iteration or things going wrong
  4. Detail on roadmap can lead team to auto-pilot. They build what they put down on paper often months in advance
    1. Team goes into auto-pilot. As if this is their job, rather than thinking of most value to be delivered for the customer
  5. Distributed copies are out of date
    1. Keeping stakeholders up to date can drain your time. You don’t want to feel like you work for the roadmap, and it is just sucking your time from doing real work.

“Many untested hypotheses, based on assumptions, plotted in an uncertain future, bearing no resemblance to reality” Jared Spool

Dave’s top tips for roadmaps

  1. Show where you want to go
  2. Choose granularity relative to the timeframe and audience
  3. Avoid specificity (Show the problem or JTBD or objectives as descriptors of intent rather than the solution)
  4. Keep it simple, centralised and accessible
  5. Don’t work for it, it works for you.

Whitney Cali / realestate.com.au

Whitney opened with sharing a story about her experiences of not liking roadmaps because she has never seen a roadmap, become reality. She first got to know REA when working at a company in the US, and became a slave to the roadmap as they committed to work they would deliver to this customer. Then, she joined REA and was so excited about agile and thought, YES! I’ll get away from roadmaps! But she was fooling herself – see the beautiful roadmap on the wall at REA (pictured in slides). However, she soon found that REA was using roadmaps and needed to due to the big size of the organisation and the need to coordinate a lot across so many teams, groups etc.

However, in Whitney’s attempt to accept roadmaps and make peace with the need for them she started asking “Why do people ask for roadmaps?”.

Some of the things she learnt don’t work when using them:

  1. Don’t work as a promise
  2. Too much detail – just a list of lower level features
  3. Lose focus on what the customer needs.

REA owns a lot of companies and even just within Realestate.com a dozen delivery teams.

“Satisfaction is a confirmation or dis-confirmation of expectations.”

Example of people waiting for train for 15 minutes but dissatisfied, and others warned that train will come at 5:30 and apologies for the delay, did not rate their travel experience as dissatisfying as compared to the first group as their expectations were met/managed.

With that in mind let’s try to think what this artefact does to satisfy our leaders.

So what are they currently doing with Whitney’s team – they use a 90 day view – showing a commitment up to 90 days. No promises beyond that – great for delivery teams. Not great for stakeholders.

For stakeholders they use a Discovery backlog (second 90 days) and an Opportunity backlog (all the rest – no priority) – people now satisfied that their idea is on there – somewhere. Others groups understand that stuff that comes out of Discovery will most likely make it to the committed version and the conversation is being moved to a different stage of team flow.

I encourage you to seek to understand with genuine curiosity, the needs of anyone who has a problem and thinks that a roadmap is the solution. Whitney

Keith Swann / Origin Engery

Keith brought to us a more positive upside to the roadmap discussion

His beliefs are that they help with:

  • Alignment – up or down
  • Influence – rarely based on dollars
  • Leadership – how do we inspire people and rally them to our cause

Alignment

  • Everyone will scrutinize it to their own beliefs, so do it carefully – target on your back
    • Strategic – Financial, PMOs, GMs, etc. etc. interpret the stuff and then try to manage up and down.
    • Cultural – make sure it talks to your audience
    • Influence Record – Successful record of moving things along. Better record = less scrutiny

A road map is a Story telling device and the aspects Keith uses are MUM, Problems, Position, Opportunity, Value. How do you tell the story, “up or down” the organisation. Think of the “Cone of influence” – below people can make lots of small decision but not big decisions. As you move up you get spun out if you aren’t managing those stakeholders.

  • Eisenhower: Plans are useless, but planning is indispensable
  • Every day the plan can change – the second your plan is finished it is out of date.
  • Roadmap = Vision.

Takeaways

  • Don’t put in too much detail
  • Think of your audience – Working Tested Feature – WTF
  • Don’t muddle the Project Mindset – Delivery Planning – Bookending with a roadmap
  • Don’t become vague in your horizon 2 and 3 – don’t over promise
  • Make it easily editable and manageable
    • Post Its on the wall and photos
  • Over invested time of effort – working with visual designers. 5 days work and 6/7000$ and printed in colour. Thus, you deliver to the roadmap even though you don’t want it anymore because too much effort went into the artefact.
  • Don’t clearly show values
  • Don’t focus on the feature – focus on the problem or opportunity.

Summary

Roadmaps may very well be a necessary evil, especially in a big organisation when you have many teams and people to motivate, inspire and align. However, our speakers have shared some great tips to help keep you from being a slave to them as well. For some more references and reading on steering clear of them and/or leaning into making them work for you check out some of the links below:

  • Brad Dunn has some opposing opinions on roadmaps.
  • Marty Cagan is not a fan and in these post he links to OKR’s which came up in both the speaker presentations and the questions afterwards.
  • And last but not least for a more practical tuition on taking back control of your roadmap you could check out Bruce McCarthy’s seminar on UIE

Thank you!!!

And thank you to our sponsors as always, without them these events do not happen.

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Sharing your (startup) baby with the 1st Product Manager – November wrap-up

What’s it like to start a company & then bring in a product manager? How do you know when the time is right?

We gathered 3 founders to talk about sharing their baby along with 1 product manager who’s the 1st PM at a startup to facilitate!

Our panel was Danielle Bodinnar, CEO of Karista, Rod Hamilton, founder & VP of Product at Culture Amp, Linus Chang, founder of 2 software companies (Backup Assist & Scram Software) and our facilitator,George Tsigounis, from A Cloud Guru.

Trust came up very early in our discussion. For CultureAmp, trust is part of their company values and differences of opinion is a good thing. When you challenge things, it’s from a good place. Karista has 1 product person & Danielle was super impressed by the research and prep the PM did before their 1st meeting – which quickly earned her trust. Linus talked about the differences people have in the way they think of earning trust. Some people start from a place of trust while others need to build it up.

When did they realise they needed a product manager?

Rod went to the rest of the founders & said he needed to start hiring because he was getting slammed. Some of the other teams at Culture Amp, including technology, had scaled up previously so it wasn’t a surprise when he came to the realisation. Danielle brought on the 1st PM shortly after launch. As a solo founder, she needed someone she could hand stuff over to and know it will be done.

Why are product managers needed?

Danielle laughingly said she doesn’t know what a product manager does (as in what the job description should include) but she knows the only product manager at Karista gets stuff done!

One of the reasons Linus realised they needed a product manager was no one was paying attention to trends of the market & what opportunities were out there. They had a product owner who was internally focused & worked closely with the dev team but only he & his business partner ever talked to customers. He sees the product manager as being visionary as in really knowing customer needs, not just what the customer says they need.

The ‘special’ deals

Startups often have the ‘special’. That thing(or multiple things!) that was built for the 1 customer so the business can get the revenue or a specific client or (insert reason). It’s completely sales led, isn’t validated as a customer need and often ends up with code that says ‘if customer X, do this’. Saying yes to a special for 1 customer is saying no to all the others so if you’re going to do this, you need to put it in context – communicate clearly with the team why you’re doing this.

Later Rod reminded us that it’s the product manager role to ‘win the market not the client’ & quoted Gibson Biddle’s definition where our job is to delight customers, in margin-enhancing, hard-to-copy ways (from Gibson’s Leading the Product talk )

Scaling the product team

Beyond the 1st PM, you will need to scale your own team. Culture Amp now has ~ 9 product people and is continuing to grow. They are creating product rituals like a Monday catchup to review the week’s goals and one on Friday for the team to talk about what went well/not well during the week (a bit of a therapy session).

Now that there are several PMs & Rod isn’t involved at the same level as previously, he sometimes wonders why X was prioritised and knows he would have done X differently but has to let go of those decisions. The team has built trust amongst themselves so when Rod does challenge something – it’s a positive thing & discussion to follow.

Lastly, a few tips for startup product people from the founders: (which apply to all product, not just startup!)

  • Don’t just talk to existing clients, know the potentials too
  • You need to constantly be in touch with customers
  • Don’t assume growth is not your job
  • Be commercially minded

Thank you to Culture Amp for hosting!!!

Culture Amp logo

Bringing Human Experiences to work – September wrap-up

What does it mean when we say we’re ‘bringing human experiences’ to work? And why should we?

Gin Atkins, Head of Product at The Conversation kicked off the evening with:

We know people are at the core of what we do. Yet, our best developers, designers, and product managers are rarely able to talk about people with as much confidence and nuance as they talk about ruby, typefaces or commercial strategy.

Over the course of the evening, Gin introduced us to 3 ways to help draw out experiences & bring them into our work.

Energy Graph – a tool to help us think and talk about experiences.

The energy graph is a tool used in acting to show the spectrum of experience. Gin learned it from Paul Currie, the co-founder of The Reach Foundation and Lightstream Entertainment.

Using several clips of music, Gin had us mark how each music clip made us feel on the graph & compare with others sitting at our table. There was definitely differences in what made us happy or sad and how energised (or not) it made us feel. Though apparently I’m the only person who gets annoyed by the Lion King soundtrack! To contrast, one attendee recounted how the Lion King brings up memories & great feelings of her daughter based on past experiences and you could see how happy she was as she told us about this. Imagine the 2 of us in a workshop where the Lion King soundtrack was playing in the background… she’d be in a great frame of mind where I’d be feeling agitated. Could that affect the results of the workshop?

Think about how music affects you. Consider a song you hate vs one you love vs one that is unoffensive. To bring this back to the office, how do the meeting rooms make you feel? Does your research participant or client feel comfortable?

You can see the graph in the slides below.

Levels of Emotional Design – a framework

Next Gin talked about Don Norman’s 3 levels of (emotional) design which provides a framework to document experiences.

This combines how a product looks & makes us feel when we engage with it (initially & ongoing) with our conscious thought about the product (for example – does it represent what I want to project to the world?)

Gin likes to use Jobs to be Done instead of User Stories to capture these elements. She feels there’s too many assumptions in the ‘As a…’ and ‘I want to…’ of user stories. A JTBD statement focuses on the situation, motivation & expected outcome – ‘when (situation), i want to (motivation) so I can (expected outcome)’.

Using the classic MP3 player example, Gin showed how using emotional design changes what you build.

functional description – When I’m listening to music I want a device that holds all my music so I can listen to anything at any time.

emotional – When I’m listening to music I want a device that looks good so I feel as cool as the artists I’m listening to

Draw on your own experiences – a call to action to help us get better

Drawing on anthropology, there’s etic & emic research of groups.

An etic view of a culture is the perspective of an outsider looking in. This can be problematic as people act differently when they know people are observing them.

An emic view of culture is the insider’s view – when you are part of the group. This is where we are with our teams, in our work lives.

We can use our insider’s view to bring more human experiences into our work & our products.

Thank you to Gin and Carsales, our host for the evening!

FYI, with Leading the Product happening in October, the next Product Anonymous event is November 22nd. RSVP here.

Resources
Also mentioned during the evening – the Overton Window