I enjoy my regular chats with Steve Johnson over Skype. Steve has many Product Management stories to share having been in Product Management since the 90s.
We got to chatting a month ago and I asked him this question which led to a lengthy conversation—if you know Steve, you know that’s a fairly common situation.
He responded, “Hasn’t a good Product Manager always been agile?”
Managing a product is more like driving a car than launching a spacecraft. You get a general destination in mind and then you make continuous adjustments throughout your journey. You estimate arrival time based on the first few miles of travel. You take a detour around construction and revise your arrival time based on traffic.
Here’s some evidence that Product Managers have always been agile.
- The agile Product Manager has always made it clear that their documents are living documents and subject to change.
- The agile product manager supplements requirements with discussions, providing context so their teams can use their own judgment.
- The agile Product Manager has always conducted ‘retrospectives’ on the product—especially when customers call to complain.
- The agile Product Manager has always conducted personal ‘retrospectives’ to grow his or her credibility. (New mantra: ‘must buy more beer.’)
- The agile Product Manager has always told the CEO to add his or her request to the backlog (or at least has wanted to).
- The agile Product Manager has always groomed the backlog to move those pesky requests from executives to the bottom of the list.
- The agile Product Manager has always enjoyed a good huddle. (Unfortunately, others sometimes avoid the Product Manager.)
- The agile Product Manager has always been in a continuous budgeting and re-budgeting process.
- The agile Product Manager has always spent their flagging budget within a few weeks. (Oohhh oops, no budget.)
- The agile Product Manager has always wanted to speak to customers despite a full slate of meetings and a never-ending influx of emails.
Whilst Steve and I had a bit of fun talking about Agile and Agile Product Management, there is a serious side to this. The underlying message is that the habits and behaviour of Product Managers have always been agile. It is only natural for every Product Manager (at least lots of them) to want the product they’ve created to launch successfully, align product features (scope) with the rhythms of the industry (dates), establish a foothold in the market, and outstrip all business expectations.
Are you an Agile Product Manager? What will you do differently in 2014?
Natalie Yan-Chatonsky interviewed Scott Sehlhorst, Global Product Management Consultant from Austin Texas, when he collaborated with the Brainmates Team at their office in Sydney, Australia on some Product Management leadership initiatives. Scott shares his thoughts on Product Management trends, globally and in Australia.
Scott’s foray into the product profession was when he started his career as an Engineer. He started as a Mechanical Design Engineer before he became a Software Developer. He drifted into requirements gathering, project management, pre-sales, R&D, then eventually into program management and product management.
He started his own Product Management consulting firm Tyner Blain in 2005 which offers Product and Strategy consulting.
Having spent time in Sydney with Australian product managers, what’s your impression of the Product Management community in Australia?
It feels surprisingly like the community in Austin – the vibe, energy, level of interest and aptitude is comparable.
The main distinction is that Austin has a bias towards high tech and software. The startup scene overlaps more with Product Management than in Sydney, probably because 11 Product Camps have been run in Austin over the last few years.
Paul Gray is a former brainmate who has worked in big corporations including Disney and Foxtel as well as having co-founded Bubble Gum Interactive, an Australian mobile and social games developer. He’s also mentored and consulted to start-ups in industries ranging from events management to financial services, social networking and video games. In this guest post, he shares some insights gained from both sides and provides some candid advice and tips on how scrappy start-ups and ‘big-end-of-town’ businesses can learn from each other.
“Delivering value in a sustainable fashion”
There are so many wonderfully worded definitions of what product managers do and how they do it. I don’t think I could come up with a better statement, and I’m generally one who favours brevity. When I think of product managers, or when I think of start-ups I see that the two are fairly similar – in fact a recent article in The Next Web illustrated how product managers can be seen as mini-CEOs.
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Product Management gets a bad rap.
Many who hail from the C-Suite don’t know what Product Management is and what Product Managers do. Others such as Tim Berglund, from GitHub just want to “Kill The Product Owner“! In summary he says, “Ahhh … the Product Manager / Product Owner (whatever you call him or her), needs to go. Instead, the people that code should hang out with the customer and understand their goals so that they may create better products.”
Never mind that the Engineers I’ve worked may not enjoy engaging directly with customers. Maybe I’ve got it wrong. Sound like sour grapes? You are probably right.