Successful product management isn’t just about training the product managers who work side by side with developers everyday to build better products. It’s about taking a step back, approaching the systems within organizations as a whole, and leveling up product leadership to improve these systems. This is the Product Thinking Podcast, where Melissa Perri will connect with industry leading experts in the product management space, AND answer your most pressing questions about everything product. Join us each week to level up your skillset and invest in yourself as a product leader.
Dear Melissa - Answering Questions About Product Management Outside of SaaS
In this Dear Melissa segment, Melissa answers subscribers’ questions about product management in software vs hardware, SaaS vs e-commerce, and within the governmental sector. She covers the differences in product strategy, things all of these product jobs will have in common, how to figure out which tools apply to your industry and product type, and how to measure impact over time for products where results could take years to come by.
Q: Do you see a difference in the strategic and tactical delivery of customer value between a digital product and a physical product created through discrete manufacturing processes? Are there any major pitfalls that I should be aware of as I work with the product roadmap and product lifecycle management of a non-SaaS product? [2:01]
Q: What are some key differences in SaaS product management teams versus product management teams inside of retailers? What advice would you give for someone in the new role who is also becoming a VP or an executive for the first time? [9:02]
Q: How do you find good metrics when the effects of an improved road maintenance program might not show or pay off until years or decades later? How do we handle these kinds of outcomes when trying to measure the impact of our products? [12:12]
Melissa Perri on LinkedIn | Twitter
Leading a Product Organization with Paul Adams
Melissa Perri welcomes Paul Adams, Chief Product Officer at Intercom, to this episode of the Product Thinking Podcast. At Intercom since the days when they only had only 13 employees, Paul has helped shape the Product department from the ground up. Paul joins Melissa to talk through his approach to product leadership, what his day to day is like as CPO and why he hasn’t been in a product review in years, how to build trust within your organization, and embracing the “messy middle” when it comes to product strategy.
Here are some key points you’ll hear Melissa and Paul talk about:
Paul talks about his introduction to the field of product management, and how he became the Chief Product Officer at Intercom. [1:55]
To have a successful product organization, three teams – product management, product design and research and data science – must work together harmoniously. [4:55]
Paul believes that the best way to oversee all the different groups within a product organization is by appointing a trustworthy leader to each group and allowing them to have autonomy over their decisions. [6:51]
Paul cautions that the downfall of most organizations is the lack of trust from team leaders. Paul suggests that the teams have open conversations about “Why are they here? What do they not trust?” in order to build trust in the team. [15:03]
When choosing a new team leader or product manager, you have to build a relationship with them so they can trust you and vice versa. [16:12]
For your organization to work in unison, the strategy must be clearly, concisely and accurately translated to the execution level, acknowledging the ever-changing trends. [ 20:25]
When the company is reviewing the strategy in Google Docs, they urge employees to label their comments “major, minor or curious” in order of urgency. This creates a smooth-running system that maintains discipline. [25:46]
The lines between sales, support, marketing, product, and project management need to be blurred. These teams should deeply collaborate in order to achieve collective success for the company. [27:50]
For a company like Intercom to work harmoniously, a feedback loop for each team should be set up, where the problems to be solved for each group are shared so that the service can run as smoothly as possible. This only works if there is a strong relationship in the company. [34:05]
Paul believes that surveys would be most beneficial to project managers as they collect and track first-party data, which allows them to send targeted ads/messages. [38:31]
Paul Adams on LinkedIn | Twitter
Dear Melissa - Answering Questions About User Research
In this Dear Melissa segment, Melissa answers subscribers’ questions about when research is stale and needs to be revalidated, when and why to schedule frequent customer interviews, and understanding product success when conducting product trials.
Q: Do you have any tips for identifying when previous validation of knowledge could be stale and might need to be revalidated before continuing work? [2:22]
Q: What’s your advice for booking customer interviews? [9:17]
Q: Do you have any tips beyond the usual customer surveys and interviews for understanding product success? [16:32]
Melissa Perri on LinkedIn | Twitter
Shifting How We Measure Success with Jeff Gothelf
Melissa Perri welcomes Jeff Gothelf to this episode of the Product Thinking Podcast. An experienced consultant in the Agile and Lean UX space, Jeff just released the third edition of his popular book, Lean UX. Jeff talks with Melissa about how he’s shifted focus to teaching about OKRs, and why he encourages the companies he consults with to adopt this goal-setting framework to measure success. He breaks down what OKRs are, why they can’t be the only product-led change a company adopts, how many OKRs there should be within an organization, what a good OKR looks like at the executive level, and why OKRs make a “great gateway drug” to organizational agility.
Here are some key points you’ll hear Melissa and Jeff talk about:
HR leadership, especially the performance, retention, and promotion factions, is taking an interest in new ways to measure success, Jeff shares. They want to learn how to deploy this new metric across their organizations so they can improve their overall internal and external performances. [5:03]
Jeff shares how he educates clients about integrating their corporate strategy with their OKRs. “These things don’t exist in a vacuum and can’t be manufactured out of thin air,” he says. “They have to be derived from some kind of corporate strategy, product strategy, business unit strategy.” [9:19]
Objectives are the qualitative goals that we would like to achieve; they are aspirational and inspirational, and the value of doing them should be clear. [11:02]
When your teams are too independent, you run the risk of hyperlocal optimization, Jeff advises. “One of the better tactics that I've seen over the years is to take a set of teams and give them the same OKR set to hit,” he adds. “With those teams, we’ve defined what success is.” [19:09]
Jeff describes an exercise he runs with most of his executive clients. They visualize the relationship between impact metrics and leading and lagging indicators in order to identify the outcomes they’re going to work toward. What this exercise ends up becoming is a top-to-bottom customer journey map. [25:44]
Typically, teams get told what to build; they make a roadmap and get it approved. In Jeff’s OKR conversations with clients, he removes the output part of the process. They now have to discover what to build by practicing Lean UX, product discovery, and design thinking. Many organizations either don’t know how to do that, or they do and they make it difficult or impossible to execute the work. [33:09]
Quarterly check-ins allow you to reflect on whether it makes sense to go towards the goals you’ve set for yourself. [38:06]
Being a good storyteller is a key component of being a good product manager. A vast majority of product managers have to rely on bringing people together on a vision they’ve either built themselves or along with a team through storytelling, as they lead without authority. If you can tell a concise and compelling story that ties in the necessary information, that will be a valuable asset. [41:45]
Jeff Gothelf on LinkedIn | Twitter
Dear Melissa - Answering Questions About Finding a Partnership In Engineering, Moving Backward In Your Career, and Playing It SAFe
In this Dear Melissa segment, Melissa answers subscribers’ questions about working with engineering leadership as a director of product, the idea of moving from a leadership position back to an individual contributor to gain a wider skillset, and whether or not SAFe is the answer for a small product org.
Q: What should my one-on-one’s with my engineering team look like as director of product? How do I find a partner and not an order-taker? [2:30]
Q: Should we adopt SAFe? Any tips on what I should study up on and propose as a right solution to process and procedure? [6:56]
Q: What advice would you have for someone who is considering stepping out of leadership and back into an IC role to grow their product skillset? [11:01]
Melissa Perri on LinkedIn | Twitter
Aligning Product Organizations with Adrian Howard
Melissa Perri welcomes Adrian Howard to this episode of the Product Thinking Podcast. Adrian is an Agile Consultant and product coach with more than 25 years of experience, and specializes in coaching leaders around “those messy spaces where product delivery and user research overlap.” Adrian joins Melissa to talk about involving engineers in strategy building, the importance of meaningful strategy, aligning teams across large organizations with varying initiatives and goals, and why team vs team competition can lead to an organization’s downfall.
Here are some key points you’ll hear Melissa and Adrian talk about:
Adrian talks about his introduction to the agile and technical world. [1:58]
When incorporating other disciplines such as engineering into product strategy, you need to involve user research and customer support to gain better insight on how a product is developing. [3:30]
Before asking questions to your engineers as a product leader, make sure that they are on board and understand the company's strategy. "Your job as a leader is to help either provide that direction, or talk to the people in your organization to discover what directions they think is useful and find a way of prioritizing and aligning about that," Adrian says. [5:14]
Too many teams do not feel aligned with the goals of the company, or don’t feel like they have a piece of value that they can deliver on. [9:57]
Have conversations about value at the lower levels. Oftentimes these conversations happen at the top, and by the time those conversations reach the bottom level, they're more about effort and work rather than the outcomes. [14:23]
Orgs should stop pitting teams against each other, and instead treat their teams as groups collectively trying to deliver on a larger set of values. [20:30]
Adrian talks about the competition mindset being ingrained in some company cultures and how he's helped them move away from that. [23:26]
"Just asking for the rest of your team to solve a problem that you have pulled out of thin air isn't leadership of the C-suite…that is hoping to steal the credit from the people who are actually coming up with ideas and hoping they'll manage to solve your problem for you," Adrian remarks. [27:48]
Usability testing has to be done in tandem with user research to fix organizational gaps, and it also has to be actionable. [31:05]
Adrian Howard | LinkedIn | Twitter
The best product podcast
I’ve listened to just about all of them and this is by far my favorite. I’m a PM with about four years of experience and find this podcast highly relatable, relevant, and insightful. I’ve listened to multiple episodes twice, jot down notes, and then apply learnings in my day-to-day. I find other podcasts are either very specific to a domain or more conceptual and c-suite strategy level. Melissa talks about it all and asks questions across so many challenging product areas, and doesn’t shy away from the “ok but how does that actually work in reality”. No fluff and tons of insight. Highly recommend.
BEST product podcast
I have listened to a lot of PM focused podcast and this is by far the best. I love the mix of in depth interviews and product Q&A. I always come away with a few nuggets of knowledge I scribble down in my notes app, a new product influencer to follow or book to read. Multiple times I have taken what I have heard and applied it to my work directly. 👏🏻
Dear Melissa... thank you! 🙌
Product Thinking is truly an invaluable resource for product professionals! Great content, delivered in an easy to consume format - no matter the topic, you're bound to gain something from every episode! Highly recommend.