Entries from July 2009 ↓

Leadership Lessons from McKinsey

mckmain_logo Another great article from McKinsey. Do you subscribe? I just finished reading “Leadership lessons for hard times by Dennis Carey, Michael Patsalos-Fox, and Michael Useem. Here are some thought provoking comments…

Phil Hildebrand, of HealthMarkets, and Steve Miller, of Delphi, both remarked on the importance of decisiveness to prevent problems from escalating. But it can be hard to achieve in the absence of perfect data.

Did he mean perfect or accurate? What are you measuring to help you make decisions?

“The world moves at a pace that requires strategy to be front and center all of the time,” says NCR’s Bill Nuti.

How often you are reviewing your strategy? Weekly? Why not?

“People will take any hill, walk into the worst situation, if they have faith in your leadership and know what your strategy and objectives are,” says Tyco’s Breen.

There is lots of talk in the industry about leadership and communication. As product managers, with a constant craving to ask why, you have to believe that the others on the team as asking why too. Share your ideas and tell them why and listen to feedback.

While acknowledging current difficulties, it is just as important to emphasize what is being done to build a company’s longer-term health. Fishman, like others, has spent much time talking about his company’s mid- and long-term strategy…

The reality is that there is never a valid excuse for taking your eye off the long-term strategy. Sure your definition of long-term might be different someone else’s definition of long-term, but you need to be constantly planning and feeding the planning engine with data.

If you don’t invest in the future and don’t plan for the future, there won’t be one.—George Buckley, chairman, president, and CEO of 3M

Not sure I need to add anything else to this.

Image Source: The McKinsey Quarterly

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Fall ProductCamp Announcements

**Updated September 08, 2010 **

See Winter / Spring 2010 ProductCamp Annoucements and Spring / Summer 2010 ProductCamp Annoucements and Summer / Fall 2010 ProductCamp Annoucements and Fall / Winter 2010/11 ProductCamp Announcements for previous and current ProductCamp announcements.

Update #1: productcamp.org is your definitive source for all product camps.

Update #2: Added known Twitter search hashtags to listings below.

Somewhat related… There are five ProductCamps in the near future. While you are here, why not check out my events (or subscribe to the RSS feed) page for the most comprehensive list of product management events available.


In the spirit of BarCamp, ProductCamp is a collaborative, user organized unconference, focused on Product Management and Marketing. At ProductCamp there are no “attendees”, since everyone is an active participant in some way: presenting, leading a roundtable discussion, sharing their experiences, helping with logistics, securing sponsorship, setting up wifi, or volunteering. ProductCamp is a great opportunity for you to learn, share, and network with professionals involved in the Product Management, Marketing, and Development.

Having attended five (!) of these so far, I can attest to the content and value you will receive from attending. I also encourage you to participate and volunteer.

ProductCamp Austin Summer 2009 (Austin, TX)
Date: Saturday August 15th, 2009
Location: University Teaching Center (UTC) @ The University of Texas at Austin, McCombs School of Business
URL: http://www.barcamp.org/ProductCampAustinSummer2009
Twitter Hashtag: #PCA09

ProductCamp RTP2 (Raleigh, NC)
Date: Saturday September 26, 2009
Location: Cambria Suites Raleigh-Durham Airport
URL: http://barcamp.org/ProductCampRTP2

ProductCamp Toronto 2009 (Toronto, ON)
Date: Sunday, October 4th, 2009
Location: Ted Rogers School of Management at Ryerson University
URL: http://www.productcamp.org/toronto/
Twitter Hashtag: #pct2 or #pct2009

ProductCamp Seattle 2009 (Seattle, WA)
Date: Saturday, October 10, 2009
Location: Amdocs Seattle office at 2211 Elliott Ave
URL: http://www.barcamp.org/ProductCampSeattle2009
Twitter Hashtag: #PCS09

ProductCamp Amsterdam (Amsterdam, Netherlands)
Date: Sunday October 18, 2009
Location: WUA!, Herengracht 252, Amsterdam
URL: http://www.productcampamsterdam.org

ProductCamp Boston Fall 2009 (Boston, MA)
Date: Saturday, November 7, 2009
Location: Microsoft New England Research & Development Center
URL: http://barcamp.org/ProductCampBoston

Have a Marketing, Product Development, Product Management, Innovation or other related event you want to promote? Contact me and I’ll add it to the growing list for others to see. Also, why not subscribe to the events feed. Tell other people about these events.

Persona Resources

PersonasLast week I pondered whether working with personas was a strategic activity. It is. And according to the statistics, personas are more common than what I am seeing in real life. The most recent Product Management and Marketing survey from Pragmatic Marketing shows that 35% of respondents have buyer personas and 56% have user personas. I think those numbers are high based on who I am talking to and despite what the survey says this is an area where we can do better.

I think persona activities are a lot like win/loss analysis and that it is a key activity for two reasons, product and sales improvements and career development. And also like win/loss the important thing to remember, you do not have to tackle this alone. There are organizations dedicated to helping you specifically with persona development and there is technology to help you keep it organized. And the vendors will help you get executive support for your persona projects.

To assist you in your persona development activities, I have compiled a list of resources. Does anyone have any other bits and pieces that they thought were useful in helping them with their personas? Specifically I am looking for a persona template.


Blog Posts:



Image Source: Talking Identity

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Book Review: Crowdsourcing by Jeff Howe

Crowdsourcing by Jeff HoweLast month we finished reading Crowdsourcing, by Jeff Howe, as part of our Smarter Product Managers book club.

Jeff defines (link) crowdsourcing as the act of taking a job traditionally performed by a designated agent (usually an employee) and outsourcing it to an undefined, generally large group of people in the form of an open call.


I thought about whether I would try to do a review on it for this blog and I was not sure if I found it relevant to the scope of the blog. If product management is involved in crowdsourcing, then it is mostly definitely a tactic in helping to achieve a strategy and if managed properly, with the proper expectations I would support a crowdsourcing initiative for you as a roadmap supporting activity. Not that you need my support or approval.

That being said, as product managers (or all associated types) start hearing the word “crowdsourcing” being used (or consider using it themselves), I highly recommend reading the book so that you can understand really what it means. I suspect most people think of it as a way to outsource a role or worse that crowdsourcing just magically manages itself.

I know what you are thinking. Jeff’s definition says, “taking a job … and outsourcing”, but I don’t read this as a job job I read this more as a outsourcing tasks.

I think crowdsourcing can be a successful tactic and as more people execute successful crowdsourcing projects you will hear more about it. My advice is be prepared.

Image Source: Random House, Inc.

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How can personas help me be strategic?

The Soccer Mom MythPersonas are great and we all know we need to write them and we generally know who our personas are. But, most don’t write them down or communicate them in any form. Different story for a different day.

Just to quickly review some persona basics, there are typically three persona types including user, buyer and technical. If you were to begin to document a persona, and I would recommend keeping it simple to start, start by identifying some basic attributes that will begin to draw a picture of who they are. This will typically include an average age, gender, summary of computing skills, applicable market segment and most importantly a name. Most will include a typical title for this persona however I am reluctant to do so unless titles in the market segment are well defined and consistent. Can I stress how important the name is over a title? Feel free to include any other demographic attributes that will help people frame a common perspective on the persona. The second step is to build out some details on what their background is, what a typical day for them looks like and how they interact with your product. The latter point will only be relevant to user personas, but you will want to identify problems that your technical and economic buyers are dealing with.

Constructing the ideal set of personas will be time consuming effort, but it can be built up and out over time. However it is something you will want to tackle sooner rather than later and may want to think about outsourcing the activity to eliminate your own perceptions from the process.

So is persona development a strategic activity?

In a previous post (Harvard Business Publishing on Strategy), that I wrote back in January and refer to continuously, it states that for your strategy to be complete it must be aligned with your vision, mission and value network. Within the context of this post, I want to key-in on the value network. Your value network is defined by the relationships between you and your suppliers, customers, employees, and investors that will combine to either create or capture value.

So how do we tie this back to strategy?

Easy. Much in the same way we test our individual activities against whether they are roadmap supporting (by asking “why?”), we can test our activities and data points against which persona will receive value (by asking “for who?”). Without personas, in the context of your value network your strategy will be undefined in the same way as it would be if you are not able to articulate your vision.

Image Source: thesoccermommyth.com

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Strategy Recap

This is a bit of a recap article as my head has just been jammed with distractions over the past two weeks.

Over the past 6 months (almost half-year anniversary!) I have jumped in and out of a few topics including roadmaps, strategy and win loss analysis. From time to time, I recall some of the posts and the following question pops into my head – “How does doing X make me strategic?” It doesn’t. Just having a roadmap doesn’t make you strategic. Just doing win/loss doesn’t make you strategic. They are, however excellent supporting activities.

As we know from previous articles, your roadmap is the record of communication for your strategy. Included in that document is the plan, the vision, your mission, your value network and all of the supporting material that you have accumulated for your roadmap.

So just doing win loss analysis won’t make you strategic, but if you tie it back as either an activity that extends or validates your roadmap then it is strategic.

You might be wondering about roadmap because in one paragraph I said having a roadmap doesn’t make you strategic but in the other I said that it is strategy. Having a roadmap where you plot out these features in these releases at these times is hardly being strategic. However, if you have put the time in to document the plan, why it is the plan and what the end looks like, you now have a strategic document and can consider yourself strategic.

Strategy is hard and you have to put a lot of time and effort into it. Every activity has (should have?) potential to affect your roadmap and you need to be prepared to record and articulate it.

More on these topics through time. I would like to take the time to thank the readers, the commenters and the people who share my posts. Much appreciated!

For an added bonus to this post and in case you missed them, here are the three most viewed posts since the start of this blog:

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