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 Early PM Career Strategy
In this Dear Melissa segment, Melissa answers questions about approaching your product management career thoughtfully and strategically. She covers what PMs are particularly good at and how to reframe the idea of PMs being “generalists,” what she thinks about product management certification courses and FAANG companies, and what taking an alternate route via product operations would look like.
Q: What tips would you give to someone who is concerned about being a generalist? [2:06]
Q: Should a product manager aim for a start-up or one of the FAANG companies in the beginning of their career? [8:13]
Q: What is the career track for product operations, and how do you support a person to grow in this role? [16:06]
Q: Are product management certificate courses worth the effort, and which do you recommend? [20:34]
Melissa Perri on LinkedIn | Twitter
Debating User Research, Experimentation and the PM Role with Kent Beck
This episode of Product Thinking Melissa interviews Extreme Programming Founder and Agile Manifesto signatory Kent Beck. Kent has had a prolific career in software development, including a role as Technical Coach at Facebook from 2011-2018, and is now a Fellow at Gusto. Melissa and Kent share their thoughts on where and when user research should fit into the product development process, the “3X” development model Kent originated while at Facebook, incentivizing employees, and what Extreme Programming looks like 20 years later.
Here are some key points you’ll hear Melissa and Kent talk about in this episode:
The greatest value is created when you have somebody with the capability to talk to somebody with the need. [4:55]
How the role of software development and product management changes depending on the phase of customer experience. [8:32]
There are pros and cons to customer research. On one hand, it’s useful to determine what features people like and dislike. On the other, there have been times where customer research indicated something wasn’t advisable, yet when it was launched, it was successful. Snapchat and the iPhone are prime examples. [11:02]
Kent tells Melissa, “If the incentives are there to not [do something], they're not going to [do it]... Incentives are about storytelling, meaning, purpose, fellowship, personal growth, and the sense of mastery.” [17:49]
It’s important that companies have causal, low-stakes interactions with people whose lives are affected by the decisions they make. [24:56]
People often forget that finding and emphasizing purpose is hugely energizing. Something as simple as identifying your goal and throwing a party when you accomplish it can motivate your employees. [33:32]
To be a good coach, you need to be able to apply the knowledge you have in different ways and be a good storyteller. You also need empathy and credibility. [37:54]
“If XP wants to come back and be a force [to be reckoned with], we need to have ways of addressing its inequities. We can't reject half the people in the world because they have two X chromosomes, we can't reject two-thirds of the people in the world because their skin happens to be brown. We have to both become aware of and navigate the power differentials that we all bring into software development,” Kent shares.
Kent Beck on LinkedIn
Dear Melissa - Answering Questions About Compromise and Collaboration
In this Dear Melissa segment, Melissa answers subscribers’ questions about learning how to compromise and collaborate with fellow product managers and new team members.
Q: How do I work with other PMs in a productive manner and avoid an unhealthy competitive atmosphere? [1:41]
Q: How can I improve a relationship with a new PM and our ability to collaborate? [6:31]
Q: How do you determine how much you need to reduce the scope of a feature when defining an MVP? Do you have any ideas for how my PM and I can come to an agreement? [13:36]
Melissa Perri on LinkedIn | Twitter
Identifying Survival Metrics with Adam Thomas
Adam Thomas is a product management expert, speaker, writer, and the Lead Product Manager at SmartRecruiters. Adam has spent his professional life helping teams reduce friction and craft product strategies that lead to better outcomes for their organizations. He joins Melissa Perri on this week’s Product Thinking Podcast to discuss a concept he developed called survival metrics, which enables product teams to change direction safely and quickly.
Here are some key points you’ll hear Melissa and Adam talk about in this episode:
Adam's professional background and how he got into product management. [2:13]
Survival metrics as a concept were created by observing the process that goes into building a product. It's born out of the psychology of thinking about what the customer needs. [7:37]
The mark of a good survival metric is action. The metric should be something that helps people in the organization understand what steps need to be taken and why those steps are important. Conversely, a bad survival metric has no direction - it’s more 'go with the flow', vague, and subjective. [9:25]
Your company's metrics strategy is tied to the anchor of your vision and mission. This is important because it is what's going to drive your organization forward. [11:39]
Survival metrics are tied to a company's culture and are developed through employee feedback. When building a product, find out what employees care about and what their incentives are. The more that product managers do this, the better understanding they would have of the company culture. [16:36]
Every project product managers work on should have at least one aspect of the 'stop, pivot, and invest' concept. This will get product managers in the mindset of not just thinking about the bad, but also the good. [19:58]
When Adam trains new product managers on survival metrics, he first gives them small projects to observe how they assess them. He gradually introduces the concept of survival metrics after a few weeks. [21:09]
Adam shares advice he gives to budding product managers who aren't confident in their decision-making. [24:04]
Succeeding in product management requires soft skills. It requires being humble enough to come up with multiple decisions and not knowing the answer immediately. Product managers run into trouble when they act on things they have little or no information on. [26:36]
Adam lists the types of things that have worked to break down barriers and make product teams more collaborative. [28:58]
Adam Thomas | LinkedIn | Twitter
Dear Melissa - Answering Questions About Experimentation
In this Dear Melissa segment, Melissa dives into the world of experimentation, answering subscribers’ questions about metrics and signals for internal applications, measuring the success of company transformations, and the best way to track experiments.
Q: Do you have any recommendations for metrics signals for internal applications, particularly where we are trying to change behaviors over the long term? How can an organization measure the success of a product-led company transformation? [2:05]
Q: How do you track experiments and the results in a central way? [8:44]
Q: How do I set a timeframe for measuring success and performance of a product before I pivot or iterate? How do I know when to kill a product, if after a couple more tries the initial idea didn't work? [11:36]
Melissa Perri on LinkedIn | Twitter
Developing Strong Product People with Petra Wille
Petra Wille is the author of the new book, “Strong Product People: The Complete Guide to Developing Great Product Managers.” A successful product management and leadership coach based in Germany, Petra joins Melissa to talk through how product teams can meet their full potential, and how leaders can achieve effective whole-person management and mentorship.
Here are some key points you’ll hear Melissa and Petra talk about in this episode:
How Petra became a product leadership coach. [2:10]
A common complaint from product managers about their professional training is that there is a lack of guidance. There are no career conversations; one-on-one conversations are usually focused on progress updates, revenue updates, and how the product is doing. Managers aren’t focusing on the people development part, and they need to be. [4:45]
Petra lists the five steps to forming strong product people. [6:24]
Petra talks about the PM wheel she created which is a framework of skills every product manager should have. Petra says this framework embodies her principles and values, and it is customized for each company she works with. [12:29]
Petra goes into how she coaches product leaders who don't have backgrounds in product management. [16:40]
Petra explains that if you want to transform your organization, you have to bring in people that know how it’s done. You have to invest in a community of practice. “Do some basic training in the beginning, then create a community of practice. Make sure they learn on the job while they're actually doing it,” Petra tells Melissa. [20:25]
If people who know how to do products aren’t given the support, they aren't going to stay with your company. Give them the infrastructure to be successful, Melissa says. [26:05]
Product managers need to understand and accept that the impact they have now is through others. [27:02]
Giving people several ways to structure their feedback can help them have an open dialogue and not be worried about hurting other people’s feelings. Basing your feedback on the impact of whatever situation or action occurred within the organization, positive or negative, makes all the difference. [29:27]
Petra gives advice for product managers who don’t have leaders that are mentoring them. [35:32]
Petra Wille | LinkedIn | Twitter
Practical PM insights
This is a PM podcast by someone who has actually done product management at scale. It shows up in the insights Melissa shares. With the field exploding, there are too many ‘experts’. Melissa is truly an expert & a thought leader in the PM space. Quality content at just the right frequency to consume & process. Highly recommended.
Learn something new every week!
I found Melissa from another podcast and really enjoy every episode she releases! I’ve picked up her book and it is awesome as well and this is a must listen in my weekly podcast rotation!
Required listening for product people who want to excel
Product thinking distill product advice in easily digestible and immediately executable chunks that a product person at every level would find valuable.