Leading the Product Pitchfest

While Leading the Product is going online this year, they are still continuing the tradition of short lightning talks and once again, ProdAnon is involved with the LTP Pitchfest.

What’s pitchfest? Pitchfest gives you the opportunity to pitch for one of the conference lightning talks. Pitches are voted on by both the audience & conference judges.

RSVP for Thursday June 25th

I’d like to pitch! Well then… get onto this NOW! 😉

LTP is requesting video submissions so pick your favourite Product Management topic (loves and hates) and create a 90-second video of your idea and submit it. The Brainmates team will pick our top videos and then present these to the audience on the night for their vote. No slides… just you sharing with the crowd & judges.

You do not need to give the talk via video or on the 25th… this is a short pitch.

Add your name here and send your video to the LTP team by Monday 15th June.

I’d like to vote & support folks! RSVP and you’ll receive a Zoom link prior to the event. You’ll be able to watch the pitches & vote for who you’d like to hear at LTP!

The judging panel in addition to you!
– Liz Blink and Jen Leibhart – Co-Founders, Product Anonymous
– Adrienne Tan – CEO, Brainmates
– Christopher Rolik – Director of Digital Product Experience, IAG

Product Leadership

This Thursday June 18th, we have 2 fantastic speakers who have experienced product in companies at different stages. RSVP now

What does product leadership entail at various sizes of organisations? How do you transition to 1st product person at a startup? What’s the same and what’s different at various sized companies in different stages?

We’ll kick off at 6:30pm with the Zoom open at 6:20pm. After the talks, we’ll utalise breakout rooms so you can say hello to folks! We hope you can stay & meet (or catchup with people you haven’t seen in a while).

Our Speakers:

Claire Sawyers
Claire has an amazing background with product management in startups – having been the 1st product manager at a startup through to chief product officer building a team PLUS she has founded 2 startups.

Claire will talk about what it’s like to work at a startup – especially how to get the job – and how to survive it!

Steve Bladeni
After years of product & strategy at large corporates (including in an innovation space), Steve went to a startup as the head of product/COO.

Steve will share how different – yet how things are the same – when you’re working in and scaling these various types of business.

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.

RSVP for Thursday June 18th

Encouraging Ethics Conversations – May Wrap

In recent years, the harm caused by technology has come under greater scrutiny. Whether at an individual product level, or the ecosystem created by a combination of products. 

  • How can we anticipate and mitigate against harm?
  • Bring an ethical lens into the product design process?
  • And map the potential bias in the systems we create.

If you’re struggling to find an answer, you’re probably not alone. 

After numerous years working in tech companies and startups, Laura Summers identified a lack of tools to facilitate ethics conversations. This led Laura to found Debias.AI, and create Ethical Litmus Tests – a deck of cards with prompts and questions to help reframe a scenario, and apply different lenses during the design process.

We were fortunate to have Laura join our May session, and using the Litmus Tests, take us through an interactive exploration of ethics in product design.

https://twitter.com/summerscope/status/1263290459217989639

Why is it so important?

Making trade-offs is part of designing and building products. But have you ever deeply considered what the impact of those options could be? Do you justify the decisions with yourselves, for the net (or greater) good?

But would you feel comfortable explaining your choices to a close younger relative?

Or what if the user was your elderly grandparent?

By applying these types of lenses, would you change the way you approach these decisions?

How does the Ethics Litmus Test work?

Define the motivator or driver

Describe the problem or scenario. The motivating concern can be either broad (eg, I’ve got a niggling feeling about this outcome), or very specific (eg, what if data was misused). 

Pick a litmus card at randOM

Select a card to help you reframe your view.

Write down your responses individually

With the litmus card in mind, spend a couple of minutes to consider:

  • Opinion: your position to the scenario
  • Questions: if you need to know more information
  • Next steps: action items

Share your responses

  • Compare and contrast your responses. 
  • Are you surprised?
  • Explain your thinking.

Some alternative activities to share your thoughts and responses:

  • The Blind Advocate – pass your response to another participant, and take turns to argue for another person’s opinion. A true exercise in empathy!
  • The Brainstorm – good for bigger groups, share your thoughts on post-its, or a digital retro board (like FunRetro), and then you can sort the responses into themes.

In this session, we all had some practice and fun, as Laura ran through several interactive scenarios with the Litmus Tests. Using the breakout rooms, we were able to discuss each scenario in small & bigger groups.

Resources and Further Reading

Read more about Laura and her work:

Thank you to our host: A Cloud Guru

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. We’re hiring

April wrap – Ten steps to lead through influence as a PM

Product managers are under pressure to drive results, but cannot wield direct power or authority to achieve their objectives. If you don’t know how to influence people at all levels of the organization, how will you create the best possible product?

In this talk, Ken Sandy shared ten techniques from The Influential Product Manager that product managers can immediately apply at each stage of the product life cycle to achieve the best outcome for the customer and their organization.

Key Takeaways:

1. Influence goes well beyond aligning stakeholder and team behaviours behind a common purpose – it is winning their hearts and minds through context setting, establishing a shared set of beliefs, and a passion to solve customer problems.

2. As a PM, being influential starts with how you view and approach your role – such as embracing and stress testing ideas, establishing collaborative relationships with stakeholders and decisively making prioritization and trade-off decisions.

3. Powerfully, product managers are at their most influential when they focus on owning and communicating the problem to be solved (enabling solutions to emerge collaboratively) and driving towards meaningful customer and business outcomes (over simply delivering projects).

Our presenter:

Ken Sandy is a 20+ years veteran in technology Product Management. Ken pioneered and teaches the first Product Management course offered in the Engineering school at UC Berkeley, which has over 400 PM alumni. Throughout his career, Ken consistently defined, launched and managed award-winning, innovative Web and mobile products loved by customers and used by millions of users across 60+ countries.

Previously, Ken served as VP of Product Management at leading online education companies, MasterClass and lynda.com (Linkedin Learning), and is currently an executive consultant and advisor for startup and scale-up companies in the US, Europe, Asia and Australia.
​He’s recently released “The Influential Product Manager – How to Lead and Launch Successful Technology Products” a highly practical and approachable guide to becoming more effective and navigating the challenging collaborative aspects of the product manager’s role.

Ken’s book is on sale for a limited time: https://bit.ly/AustraliaBookOnsale ($A paperback) or https://www.bkconnection.com/specials/ebook ($US ebook). If you are interested in having Ken do a talk at your company or just have some questions for him, don’t hesitate to connect with him at kenjsandy@gmail.com or on linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/kensandy/.

Here are the slides and the video for your viewing pleasure.

Click here to watch Ken's talk
Click here to watch the video of Ken’s talk

We had such a great time running our first talk online – we had folks pop in from other cities In Oz and countries as far as Brazil & New Zealand. It was really nice to welcome our friends from other cities.

Just like the f2f sessions, there’s always those folks who don’t know when to go home. 😉 Chatting after the session.

Thanks again to A Cloud Guru for hosting us online this month! 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.

March Wrap – Working remotely

We were super excited about our March event so it broke our hearts to reschedule Becoming (more) Brilliant with Impro. With things changing so quickly re: Covid-19 and new advice, it was most definitely the right answer. We will reschedule this session in the future.

So… we quickly decided to change the session into a roundtable discussion about our new reality of full-on remote working. A quick summary…

What were people enjoying about WFH?

  • no commuting
  • flexibility of the time as in being able to adjust hours
  • home cooked meals
  • ability to do chores at home during breaks
  • pets!

What is challenging?

  • Lack of whiteboard solutions
  • Overhearing conversations in the office (bc often it’s very valuable customer feedback or something related to what you work on)
  • Less time to focus because there are more meetings/catch-ups to make up for not being f2f
  • Being paranoid about being seen as ‘online’ and thus available all the time aka PEN syndrome (please everyone now)
  • Hard to see micro-expressions and the body language
  • The distraction of text chat happening in the meeting room at the same time as the meeting (yes, this happens F2F also but easier to get distracted when virtual)
  • If you didn’t have a remote team or WFH folks with a standard set of tools already, people have been receiving multiple invitations. This might feel like overload and could result in documents all over the place.
  • While many of us thought we’d have MORE time to focus, we find there’s even LESS focused time now because you need to increase your communication and there’s so many channels to reach you that you get interrupted more. They can’t see you’re busy or focused so you need to better manage this. Which leads to maybe needing better expectations around work hours & response times.

What we are missing

  • Spontaneous idea sharing
  • Having an expert within earshot
  • Water cooler conversations
  • Random social interactions
  • For those with kids at home… missing adult conversation
  • Reduction in drinking water
  • The commute – gives you time to think! To walk! To see people!

How to keep that social thing happening

  • Virtual lunch with your team
  • Friday pub drinks over Zoom
  • Host a trivia quiz
  • 3 minutes of squats every day virtually!
  • Plant competition
  • Leave a Zoom room running all day (ie water cooler chat)
  • Acknowledge pets & kids joining calls
  • Contests of best virtual background
  • Making a conscious effort to reach out to individuals

Tools mentioned

  • Krisp for filtering out background noise during your calls
  • Mural & Jamboard (part of GSuite) for collaboration
  • Milanote
  • Miro (aka Real Time Board)
  • Microsoft Teams
  • Freehand by Invision
  • Funretro.io
  • Pomodoro technique
  • For whiteboarding – Zoom & Teams
  • BlueJeans – video conferencing

BYO Dumplings Evening

Last year in April, we decided to have a social event instead of a talk – because with all the holidays and school holidays, people were away. We decided to do a dumplings evening at a place on Lt Bourke instead.

This year …it’s looking like we have the beginnings of an April tradition. 😉

This Monday April 6th, we’ll virtually host a BYO Dumplings (& bevvy) evening. No speaker… we’ll chat, catch up & get to know each other.

If you’re on the ProdAnon slack, details will be posted in the dumplings channel (yes, we have had a dumplings channel for almost 3 years…..)

Join the ProdAnon slack for more details and session login details.
http://bit.ly/2vXZ4mS

FYI, there is a meetup in the calendar but we’re not using it for RSVPs.

AND .. we’ll be announcing the usual April event soon.

February Wrap – Transitioning to a Product Led Company

The other Thursday we heard from Josh Centner, Head of Product & Delivery at PageUp about their journey to being a product-led company.

Josh started with a bit of background. PageUp began in 1997 as a custom software house building various things which translates into a very sales led company. Over time they realised companies often had the same issues and even the same requests which is when they decided to focus on building recruitment software. For years, the company grew – people, teams, features, products, revenue – though still was quite sales led.

They realised they needed to make a change if they were going to continue to grow and move faster. They had previously been the fast mover in the industry but the industry had changed with lots of big and small players making a difference. Shifting to a focus on product-market fit rather than custom features for clients which only work for that client was a key part of the change to stay ahead.

Josh outlined the pillars to work.

  • Starts with people – Ensure everyone is well prepared and supported from a skills, mindset and culture perspective
  • Process – Put metrics in place so you can understand if time is being lost and if improvements are working
  • Strategy – Your strategy needs a story
  • Culture – the culture at PageUp is amazing. Everyone is really nice, so it’s fun but people don’t hold each other accountable because they are worried about hurting someone’s feelings
Credit: Neha Jaiswal

As part of the people change and bringing teams together they focussed on creating cross-functional teams – which INCLUDED the sales crew. (In other words, sales needed to write their own Jira tickets!!)

In order to improve the process & start to shift culture, a couple of actons were taken. The company did a values assessment. This assessment was an important step to define where the company wanted to be and brought people together to define it. Turning the output of those sessions into statements was critical because it was the beginning of behaviour changes.

PageUp also ran innovation workshops and in-depth training on design thinking, jobs to be done and lean startup with the exec team. The goal was to make sure people at the top knew what was going on & could speak the same language as their team. While everyone across the company went through the training, some were not able to implement it right away. They were focused on business-critical work. This ended up being a mistake because, by the time those folk had a chance to put their training into practice, it was very much forgotten.

With all this change, you want to show progress. Josh used delivery metrics at first because they change quickly – you can see speed improving, output, costs going down, and begin to see predictability come into the work. The product metrics Josh used were the HEART framework to help link to the lagging indicators of retention, growth & costs. This brought comfort to the organisation and allowed room to invest in risk & new areas of product innovation.

In terms of building out the product strategy ensure you’ve covered your compelling boundaries – 

  • Story so far
  • Under attack
  • Purpose of this approach right now
  • Markets and customers
  • Deepening the competitive advantage

What would Josh do better next time:

  • Have metrics ready before starting the transformation. Start tracking as soon as possible!
  • Baseline the needed skills and have a long-term plan
  • Have a strong product strategy ready to go as you roll-out to ensure alignment & enable autonomy

Josh Centner, Head of Product at PageUp

Josh has spent the last 10 years knee-deep in the world of startups and innovation. Attempting his own startups and consulting to both small and large organisations intent on creating disruption for themselves and their industries. After working with over 20 different organisations, Josh has deep insight into what does and doesn’t work when it comes to organisational transformation and product management.

Thank you to our Host: UniSuper

At UniSuper, our mission is simple—helping our members enjoy exceptional retirement outcomes underpins everything we do. 

UniSuper logo

Transitioning to a Product Led Company

Product transformation is easy and everyone in our organisation is both excited and happy to be on the journey….

This sounds far fetched but is the reality of what’s happened at PageUp. Josh Centner, Head of Product will walk through the journey of PageUp – a successful Melbourne based software company and how they went from a custom software house to a fast paced, customer focused product company.

Josh will cover their approach to introducing organisational transformation and how the organisation has combined the best of Design Thinking and Lean Startup to revolutionise the structure, process and mindset that drives our strategy, operations and product development practices.

Structure, culture & process will be covered with a ‘what we did’ approach and how you can learn from their experience.

Our Speaker:
Josh Centner, Head of Product at PageUp

Josh has spent the last 10 years knee-deep in the world of startups and innovation. Attempting his own startups and consulting to both small and large organisations intent on creating disruption for themselves and their industries. After working with over 20 different organisations, Josh has deep insight into what does and doesn’t work when it comes to organisational transformation and product management.

Our Host:
UniSuper

At UniSuper, our mission is simple—helping our members enjoy exceptional retirement outcomes underpins everything we do. 

https://twitter.com/UniSuperNews
https://www.linkedin.com/company/unisuper

UniSuper logo

How to Help your Team Benefit from Neurodiversity – Product Camp 2019

The speaker of this talk was Ben Jackson who discovered his Autism Spectrum Disorder as an adult.

I found this to be a great talk. I was deeply inspired by Ben’s self-knowledge, his investment in self discovery, his courage in getting up on the big stage in the largest meeting room at Product Camp and his commitment to shining a light on the spectrum of his own humanity. 

The focus of the talk was Ben’s own experience and his own neurodiversity. He was not seeking to convey the experiences of other neurodiverse people. Instead Ben wanted to give us an idea of what it is like to be neurodiverse

It is impossible for Ben to put words to the thousands of things he struggles against every day but he did share his self-stimulating (‘stimming’) behaviours that help him focus and are part of his self-management.

Two of the key terms Ben used were “neurodiverse” and “neurotypical”. Neurodiversity refers to variations regarding sociability, learning, attention, mood & other mental functions. Autistic Spectrum Disorder, Dyslexia & Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder are some of the variations. Neurotypical is used to describe individuals of typical developmental, intellectual & cognitive abilities.

Key take-aways from the talk

Neurodiversity as a spectrum

Neurodiversity is a spectrum, not where someone sits on a 1-10 scale

A neurotypical person can be represented on the colour wheel as an almost perfect circle whereas a neurodiverse person would be more like a 5 pointed star.   The big thing to remember is each neurodiverse person is as unique in themselves as a neurotypical person is.

Triggers and reactions are not a choice

Neurodiversity can also mean diversity in triggers and reactions to specific stimuli. 

For example, Ben can find unexpected social interaction a trigger that leads to stress. When stressed, he tends to bite nails, touch his face and repeatedly wring his hands. His stress reactions also include extreme perfectionism. He has a pathological need to complete a task and has no choice overdoing it. He has sensitivity to sudden loud noises and even colours can trigger discomfort or cause a panic attack.

Neurodiversity means strengths and challenges in a workplace

Like with all us humans, the challenge is to understand where our strengths lie and how to use it for good.

For Ben, it means he is excellent at pattern recognition. He is also completely honest yet won’t realise if he’s being offensive or hurtful even though he’s very afraid of causing emotional distress in others. He works ‘like a computer’ where if there’s any room for interpretation he freezes as directions. Questions should be very clear as he can anticipate thousands of variations you may need but won’t know which you need

How to work with an autistic person? Just like anyone else!

When you start working with a new person, it sometimes takes a little while & effort to understand how to work best with them. Same is true with someone who is neurodiverse. Sit down and work out a way you can work with them.

This is not hard, just slightly different. It is similar to how you travel to a new country and adapt to their culture. 

Doing this is just a part of being a good leader and a good human being.

How to take advantage of working with a neurodiverse person

Where to learn more

Aspect Victoria https://www.autismspectrum.org.au/

AutismCRC https://www.autismcrc.com.au/

Ben’s article – Why you should care about Neurodiversity in the Workplace

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!!