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The Mythical Man Moon

There’s a startup product metaphor that bugs me. Your product is a rocket, and if your targeting at launch is 1% off — you miss the moon by 4,000 miles! The thing is products, rockets and targeting don’t work that way. I have resorted to a cartoon to explain. This cartoon complements a longer post on LinkedIn on Continuous Alignment of Product Management.

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The Mythical Man Moon

  1. 1. Continous Alignment of Product Management By Ross Mayfield, CEO & Co-founder of Pingpad
  2. 2. There’s a product startup myth I’d like to bust. That what matters is having the right plan when you launch, with perfect targeting. Sure that matters. But the myth says if you are 1% off in your targeting a rocket to the moon, you miss it by 4,000 miles.
  3. 3. In most organizations today, alignment still happens through Push mechanisms. From an executive planning process, and plan with the way things should be when is pushed into the organization. Everyone has to get behind the plan. Don’t get me wrong, there is extreme value in making plans and roadmaps. It’s an exercise in thinking through the vision, landscape and resources that creates shared understanding, assumptions and decided goals. That exercise, despite the best dysfunctions of teams, aligns the participants and creates artifacts that share that understanding of strategy out to the broader team for execution.
  4. 4. Leading agile companies set the vision, goals and measures. Their plans are a view of desired outcomes and impacts. Their roadmaps are thematic, they make maps, but all plans and assumptions are subject to change. They value rapid iteration and the speed of decisions. In the shift from push to pull, making alignment a Pull function for product requires shifts in tools, practices and cultural philosophies.
  5. 5. The lynchpin is one practice — how does this plan change? If there is an exception to a process, how is it escalated, how does the right group of people rapidly assemble, not just to fix the problem, but to learn from it? Exceptions, or problems, come from a change in the environment the process and organization was not designed to process. A change that is an opportunity. And that’s not how most organizations think of problems. Mostly they are a pejorative, a chore to get done while time is tracked. Leading companies put tools and processes in place. At least for the known knowns and known unknowns. The unknowns unknowns are the realm of having a great team with muscle memory from responding to prior unknown unknowns.
  6. 6. Or for example, creating an Idea Board (shameless plug) to source problems from sales, sales engineering, customer success and support. They triage and prioritize them, assemble their experts to craft solutions to problems, to put them into plans and action. The original context is captured and stakeholders are automatically kept in synch. These new problems continuously contest the roadmap, so there’s less of a gap in prioritizing the backlog for the next iteration, the most valuable things are made visible, and prioritization goes forth with ruthless abandon.
  7. 7. Our hypothesis is Products are Conversations. In our research, we found that the biggest problem in Product Management is creating and executing a roadmap that customers actually want. And in talking to over 50 product leads we gained some interesting insights into this problem. There are a lot of tools and processes for the Product Owner part of the role. Think Jira. But not a lot for the core function of Product Management — setting the vision, being close to customers to gain insight, prioritize and decide on their behalf, and continuous alignment of stakeholders. The tools that seek to support this function largely originate from Project Management and trend towards Gantt Chart planning of what should happen. They are used by a few to make and publish roadmaps for many. Meanwhile alignment is episodically orchestrated in Slack channels, email and meetings. Product Managers get by because they have great organization skills and communication discipline. But they lack a collaborative system that supports continuous alignment, and the automation that enables the function to scale.
  8. 8. Want to continously align your Product Team? Read the full post on LinkedIn Got your Product Team on Slack? Try Pingpad for ProductOps.