“Imagine in your minds eye, an average Utah product manager (although I ask youare any of us really average), sitting awake in a hotel room in Bangalore April 16th2012 at 2:00AM. The problem that is causing the insomnia (if jet lag wasn’t goodenough a reason), no keynote for the Spring 2012 Utah Product ManagementAssociation pCamp. If this pCamp were a conference, we were stuck. Tossing andturning, guilt ridden perhaps, the chances of finding a really rockem’ sockem’speaker were dwindling fast.
Now picture a PM awake with inspiration….“What if this problem keynote could be treated like a product managementexercise? What if product management principles could turn this into anopportunity? What if we could practice our craft in front of our peers?”We hereby present to you: Four Great Principles that Make Great ProductManagers
Principle one: Great PMs find problems, especially hard ones, and turn them intoopportunities.How many of you use the “5 Whys” method of problem solving? According toWikipedia “The 5 Whys is a question-asking technique used to explore the cause-and-effect relationships underlying a particular problem ("Five Whys Technique".adb.org. Asian Development Bank. February 2009.http://www.adb.org/publications/five-whys-technique.http://www adb org/publications/five-whys-technique Retrieved 26 March 2012) 2012).The primary goal of the technique is to determine the root cause of a defect orproblem.” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/5_Whys)So here we go. No keynote. (the problem)First Why? – Why did we have no keynote? Because keynote speakers cost a lot ofmoney.Second Why? – Why do keynote speakers cost a lot? Because people wantfantastic speakers driving up demand. (second why)Third Why? – Why are keynote speakers wanted? Because they deliver whatconference attendees want in a keynote (third why)Fourth Why? – Keynote speakers know what people want because they want it too:inspiration, motivation, entertainment. (fourth why, a root cause)Mindshift: Not having a keynote is an opportunity. Why have a keynote at anUNconference? Have an UNkeynote. If we can inspire, motivate, and entertain thisparticular audience, we could do better than the most expensive keynoters.So at this point you may be wondering what the picture in front of you has anythingto do with anything?
The picture you saw is the genesis of a great opportunity that started with a problem, p y g g pp y p ,heaps of rotting garbage.Maglebys Fresh, a Provo, Utah, restaurant, is famous among students at Brigham YoungUniversity for its all-you-can-eat breakfast buffet. It was there in 2009 that Dan Blake firsttook notice of the staggering amount of food that ended up in the restaurants garbagecans. Then a junior studying English and business at BYU, Blake began pondering thebusiness opportunities. If your cost of raw materials was nothing, he thought, that wouldmake for fantastic margins.And so it was that EcoScraps was born. Founded in 2010, the company collects roughly 20tons of food waste a day from more than 70 grocers, produce wholesalers, and Costcostores across Utah and Arizona. Then, it composts the waste into potting soil, which retailsfor up to $8.50 a bag in nurseries and garden stores throughout the western United States.The company has eight full-time employees and 14 part-time employees. Sales areexpected to hit more than $1.5 million in 2011.Bottom line: Principle one of great product management is to look for problems and whyyourself to opportunity.
So returning to our problem, figuring out a keynote that will inspire, motivate, and entertainPMs. Principle two: Great PMs take the problem to the people. They use personas to helpthem understand the problem in terms of a particular target market. If they get stuck, theydig into their target market until they know them so well that they can think, act, and evenemote as they do.So, what inspires Product Managers, in particular what inspires Utah Product Managers?Product managers love entrepreneurial spirit. They love the challenge of unsolvableproblems, solving th bl l i them with i fi it i l constrained resources, and with unrealistic ith infinitesimal t i d d ith li titimelines. They love the thrill of the hunt, and the exhilaration of the kill, even more thantheir over-demanding management and sales teams do. Utah Product Managers like doingamazing outdoor things with their free time, and with an unrelenting job like being a PM,you need amazing things for those rare free times you do get. They live here because it is afamily friendly environment, and with such an un-family friendly job like being a PM, we canuse all the help we can get. They love Utah because it is a pre-hyped growth area a placethey can find great start up companies over and over again, without the hyper infatuated againsilicon implanted traffic jams found in other places.What inspires Utah Product Managers attending a un-conference, in particular on aSaturday? Un-conferences give the rare opportunity to see creation in action rather thango to a pre-packaged, homogenized, and pasteurized conference. They provide anopportunity to choose the subjects we want rather than have the subjects chosen for us oreven worse subjects sold to the highest bidder Un-conferences give us enlightenment bidder.because smart presenters and even smarter participants join together to explore,collaborate, and challenge the frontiers of our evolving field. We learn more because weactively participate on the application of concepts to our own limitless circumstances, ratherthan listening to one person talk about their own limited ones. And we are willing to spendextraordinarily precious Saturday time, because we have an insatiable desire to improveourselves. We sacrifice that time because we know that being a PM requires that weexplore our innermost selves to maximize the most powerful resource we have at our
Principle three: Great PMs don’t find new products. They take existing products andmake them better, incrementally. This involves taking those existing products andlooking for the most valuable increments that can be changed with the fewestresources and the fastest time. They find new methods and new technologies thatcan streamline and maximize. They look for waste and eliminate. They look forweaknesses and exploit them. They know how to take a team of people and getthem to contribute their best skills, and working with them to leave their weaknessesbehind.behind They turn constraints into stepping stools and problems into opportunities opportunities.And Great PMs are disciplined, taking great principles, product management orotherwise, and applying them consistently, relentlessly, energetically, andenthusiastically, until a great product emerges and success is achieved.So we took the traditional conference keynote, and did the same. We took ourproblem as an opportunity. We took the good: inspiration, motivation, entertainment.We kept the flashy graphics and left out the expensive celebrity. We eliminated themonolithic ego and replaced it with a collaborative open source process, letting thekeynote evolve through the diverse talents of an anonymous humble crossfunctional team.We ignored the constraints of presentation length, and focused on the real need, toprovide concise usable material. We ignored copyrightable, publishable, patentable,and commercializable content, and focused on making our customer truly improved.`Keynotes are often too long. So our product can be short. Keynotes are often anon-attendee selling a generic concept to a captive audience (picture LanceArmstrong at a Las Vegas Internet Security Conference). So our product can betargeted, specific, and simple.
And finally, Great PMs know how to present. They know how to take a product andpresent it through a great user experience. They know how to take a great conceptand make it a resonating message. They know how to package, polish, and perfect.They know how to select, sizzle, satisfy, and sell.
So in summary, find and master the tools of our trade, the principles of productmanagement:1. Don’t avoid your biggest problems, embrace them as your greatest opportunitiesfor success. Seek them out like you would uranium, once thought to be a uselessand even dangerous material, now known to be a resource of almost limitlesspower. Find ways to ask questions and seek new perspectives.2. Get personal with your target market. Get to know them better than you knowyourself.yourself3. Take your problems to your people. Find how they have been solved before andsolve them better, incrementally, methodically, relentlessly.4. Take your finished product and make it an experience. Add to everyday food thesizzle, spice, and sauce, to make pasta into primavera, clams into chiapino, fruit intoflambé. Don’t settle for players, make iPods. Don’t stop at iPods, evolve to iPhones.Don’t acquiesce to iPhones, invent Android. And don’t end with Android, expand tocupcakes, donuts, eclairs, gingerbread, and ice cream sandwiches.By raise of hands, who caught that last reference?
And since we have no speaker, we won’t open this up to questions and answers,but propose that you take this presentation (URL) and turn it into your own. For thenext X minutes, come up to the microphone comment, challenge, question,collabortate, and contribute and tell us what you think makes a great PM.
Thank you all for making this a g y g great keynote and for making this a g y g great conference.