Entries from June 2009 ↓

More Strategy Wisdom from McKinsey

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I love when I read things that make me think… Just finished reading “Setting strategy in the new era: A conversation with Lowell Bryan and Richard Rumelt”, a recent article from The McKinsey Quarterly, and there were a few points that made me reflect.

First was this line:

All these fundamental uncertainties mean that it’s very hard to do strategy.

Do the uncertainties make it hard to do strategy? Is it hard to develop strategy, execute strategy or be successful? Not sure I have the answer, but I did wonder.

What you can do is the kind of strategic thinking Richard was talking about and come up with a really good initiative that tries to find a way to make money. But you don’t need just one initiative. You need eight or ten or more. You need a portfolio of initiatives. And you need to be continually pruning them, adding to them. You do less of A and more of B. It’s not different than what venture capitalists or exploration and production people in oil have done for a long time. It really is a whole set of initiatives that help you discover, over time, new ways of making money.

This was a great line. Budgets will certainly constrain how many initiatives you have in play, but managing that portfolio for the best long-term ROI is what product management is all about.

To some extent, you’re planning on being lucky. Fortune favors the prepared mind.

Interesting, was Clear just unlucky? Or do you plan to be lucky and not plan to be unlucky.

… getting on top of business intelligence, consciously building flexibility into their plans, beginning to look for the right kind of opportunities …

This basically summed it up for me. Strategy is about making decisions, but to be a good strategist is about being flexible and being able to prepare for change. I hear something about putting the bull in flexible. Hat tip to Jim Holland for that one!


Image Source: The McKinsey Quarterly

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The Product Management Cringe List

Source: lasvegascitylife.comBeing Canadian, it goes without saying that the image is without political message.smiley


There are product management related terms that just make me cringe. Some I cringe for the negative context, some I cringe because I know what it really means.


Here they are in no particular order…


  • Voice of the customer
  • Customer
  • Business Requirements
  • I am an industry expert
  • Cost plus
  • We are Agile
  • Prioritize
  • P-Camp
  • Meetings
  • Development manages the bug fix list

Are there any phrases that just make you wince? I suspect this list will grow over time.smiley


Image Source: lasvegascitylife.com

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So you want to be strategic…

It’s easy and I have the answer for you. It boils down to one answering one simple question.

Is this a roadmap supporting activity?

You know I believe that your roadmap is your strategy and that it needs constant attention and caring. It changes daily, whether you want to believe that or not.

Product management is a strategic function and your daily work routine consists of a series of tasks, or activities that range from meetings, answering email and writing (and likely many, many more). Each activity you perform through the day should be validating your roadmap, delivering your roadmap or extending your roadmap. If you can justify an activity as being a roadmap supporting activity then please proceed.

So there you have it, a simple pre-meeting question or summary, in conclusion statement for each activity throughout the day.


Image Source: gapingvoid.com

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Sharing the Positives with the Community

Writing for this blog has been a wonderful experience and being a product management type I am fascinated by the statistics I can pull from the system (measure everything!). Still not completely sure what to do with them, but I am cognizant of of them.

The good news is that the events page and the blogroll are starting to get some traffic and I think this is important. For the product management community (and by reading this you are a part of the community) to survive it needs participation (even the lurking kind). The more readers (to all the blogs) will lead to more contributors and develop more thought leaders. So a big thank you to my readers. Drop me a line (details here) and let’s see how we can connect and expand our network.

One last update… Congratulations!! to On Product Management for their 2-year anniversary and The Cranky Product Manager for her 3-year anniversary. In true product management fashion, they championed their accomplishments here and here. This is a good, simple lesson for all of product management. Share the positives!


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Call for Vision Statements

Source: Village of PinehurstThe author of the Purist Product Management blog, Abdelaziz Musa left an interesting comment on the last post. If you google “exercises and tools to create a vision statement” you will find all kinds of websites and tools to help you write your vision statements. Problem is they are a bit generic and geared towards personal vision statements and not products. Don’t get me wrong, there is some useful advice.

Is anyone particularly happy (or not) with their vision statement? Care to share? Free advertising! Or at least it should be. I think it would be useful to the community to share, build and critique each other’s vision statements. Any volunteers?

Remember, no vision equals no strategy.


Image Source: Village of Pinehurst

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Roadmap: Product Vision Statement

Source: dreadfullyposh.comAhhhh roadmaps… if you have heard me speak, you know that I believe your roadmap is your most important document. I have probably written that in the archives somewhere too. It should be reviewed weekly, maybe you change it maybe you do not. You should carry it with you at all times and you should know it cold. That being said, is it spelled roadmap or road map? Stupid spell check.

One of the most important aspects of your roadmap is your product vision. Your vision is one of the pillars in your strategy along with your mission statement and value network. Often people will confuse mission and vision statements. Your vision statement will focus on the future and your mission statement will focus on the present. You absolutely need to own both the vision and mission for your product. Even the agilists will tell you, the product manager, to own this.

Joel Spolsky reprinted an article by Jim Highsmith. Scary, but this article originally appeared in August 2001, almost 8 years ago. Despite that, I think it is very relevant to where we are today. The article offers a simple vision framework from Geoffrey Moore’s book Crossing the Chasm. It follows the form:

  • For (target customer)
  • Who (statement of the need or opportunity)
  • The (product name) is a (product category)
  • That (key benefit, compelling reason to buy)
  • Unlike (primary competitive alternative)
  • Our product (statement of primary differentiation)

You will likely adjust your vision over-time as markets evolve but I think this gives you a great framework for developing an easy to understand and communicate vision. Developing your vision is one of those writing exercises that is a REALLY important task that will require you to put the time in to get it right. You need to define your vision and mission statements, champion them and constantly test them on various audiences.

Does anyone have another framework or an example of vision statements that they like better than Moore’s?

Image Source: dreadfullyposh.com

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10 Secrets to GREAT Product Management

Source: SlideShare Inc.This past weekend (and back in May for ProductCamp RTP) I had the honour of having my proposed session selected by my peers at Product Camp Atlanta. The discussion that the topics generate is what lifts the value of the session. I have posted my slides on slideshare.net (slideshare is youtube for product management) so you can access the resources embedded.

Image Source: SlideShare Inc.

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Five Most Important Product Management Types on Twitter

Source: TwitterEarlier this week Jason Brett, Product Camp Atlanta organizer, posted a quick survey to the Twitter audience, “What one product management personality on twitter brings the most value with respect to finding new product management content and thought?”


Here are the results…


OK, so there were a series of ties and the top 5 were actually the top 6. Actually, with ties the top 6 are the top 4. Either way, I am pretty stoked to be included in such great company. I know I learn a lot for the other five every day.

There are so many other valuable product management types on twitter. If you are interested in more, checkout Products People on Twitter by Cindy Alvarez and 50 75 Product Managers In Twitter That Are Worth A Follow by webproductblog.com. You can also follow me on Twitter.

Image Source: Twitter

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