34 / Product Managers ‘Change the World’


Change the world. It’s a pretty tall order, even for today’s modern product leaders. But that’s precisely what product managers do, according to Adrienne Tan, who joins Sean and Paul in this episode of the Product Momentum Podcast.

Co-founder and CEO of Brainmates, Adrienne is a pioneer in the world of modern product management. Her impact on the product management community has been felt and appreciated both at home in Australia and around the world.

“Product Managers are the key part of the business – the engine that drives the business forward,” Adrienne says. “They are the people who make the products and the people who change the world. That’s what product managers do.”

Changing the world is a lot like eating an elephant. Trying either in one colossal bite will lead to certain failure – and a fair bit of indigestion.  But do it “one bite at a time,” like product managers do, and you may just have a chance.

For Adrienne, bringing products to market that people love requires an approach that goes way beyond a series of sprints, ceremonies, and releases. Over the years, so many different kinds of tools and templates have emerged in response to trying to do better product management. Adrienne prefers to operate on first principles – foremost among them, putting the customer front and center.

“I think when you start with the customer, that makes for a better product,” she adds. “The things that we put in the market are to serve our customers, so we need to be empathetic to who they are and empathetic to the people who build our products for us. Because if we aren’t and we don’t, it shows up in the product.”

Adrienne’s insightful nuggets cover a broad range of topics, each focused on giving voice to product managers and leaders and guiding us on how to level up our technical and adaptive skills, build great product culture, and hire thinkers not doers.

She brings to the pod the same high level of energy that she and her Brainmates team bring to their product management conference. Going all digital in its 6th year, Leading the Product 2020 is designed for the product people and by the product people, bringing together some of the best minds in the product space.


[02:01] I wish there were a secret sauce. I think we all do. But that’s part of our problem. We’re all searching for some secret sauce.

[02:57] Making sure we’re not ‘the tall poppy.’ Maybe it’s a cultural thing; Australians don’t want to be sliced down by others and that could be part of the way that we operate.

[05:05] Avoiding tools, templates, and flash-in-the-pan gimmicks. I prefer to operate on first principles. But my favorite tool is definitely the customer journey map. It puts the customer front and center.

[07:03] Agile: friend or foe? Agile and lean practices are enormously beneficial tools and methods, but we sometimes get so far down in the weeds that we forget what we’re trying to achieve.

[07:54] The 7 Ps of Product. Problem, Purpose, Position, Performance, Price, Promotion, and Practice.

[09:10] What’s old is new again. I’m looking back at the tools that were designed in the 60s and 70s to really reframe and rethink a modern way of doing product.

[09:43] Technical Skills + Adaptive Skills. The connective tissue that brings together what we do on a day-to-day basis with our vision and strategy – where we want to take our products.

[10:52] The Palm Model. The Brainmates product management framework addresses an over-emphasis on the technical aspects of the product manager role.

[12:32] Hiring for product managers. We want and need their technical skills. But do they know how to show up? Do they bring empathy to their work?

[13:59] Develop thinkers, not doers.

[14:40] Empathy. If we are not empathetic to our customers, or to our people, it shows up in the product.  

[16:48] Be yourself; you cannot succeed as somebody else. You cannot be another company. If you try, well then, you’ve already lost your secret sauce.

[17:33] What’s your competitive advantage. People is our competitive advantage. Culture is our competitive advantage. If you want to adopt somebody else’s culture, what is your competitive advantage?

[18:58] A step-by-step guide to building great product culture.

[21:25] Leading the Product 2020. Going all digital in its 6th year, Australia’s favorite product conference is designed for the product people, by the product people, bringing together some of the best minds in the product space.

[23:40] Helping product managers find their voice. I’ve always believed product managers to be the key part, the engine that drives the business.

[24:10] A purpose in life. It may look like we sell training and consulting and a conference, but if you strip it all back what we sell is belonging. We all want to belong at some level.

[26:03] Innovation. It’s great product management. I don’t see innovation as separate to what we do…

About Adrienne

Adrienne Tan is the co-founder and CEO of Brainmates, based in Sydney, Australia. She is a highly experienced senior product and business leader with more than 20 years’ experience across multiple industries. Adrienne brings broad expertise across various aspects of business, including product strategy and product planning, business stakeholder management, and product design and development. She is experienced in managing, coaching, and nurturing teams of product managers, senior product managers, and tech leads.

Adrienne has a comprehensive track record developing a growing and profitable consulting, training, and conference business that boasts a global reach. Over the past 16 years, she has raised the product management profession in Australia through community events and coaching sessions.

When she is not speaking at conferences and numerous product events in Australia and Europe, she is an avid gym lover who also enjoys drinking wine.

Adrienne holds a Bachelor or Arts degree in Industrial Relations and a Master of Economics degree (Social Science) from the University of Sydney.




33 / Learn Fast, Learn Well With Experimentation


Experimentation is not about right or wrong. It’s about learning things that you genuinely didn’t know. The secret is to become comfortable with the uncomfortable and to make room for your own sense of  vulnerability. When you’re able to embrace not knowing something, or have experiments come back that disprove your hypotheses, you’re going to discover amazing insights that benefit you, your team, and your organization.

In this episode of the Product Momentum Podcast, Sean and Paul welcome Holly Hester-Reilly, Founder and CEO of H2R Product Science. In this dynamic and fast-paced conversation, Holly discusses her approach to the product science method, one that focuses on using science and empathy to manage risk while building high-growth products and teams.

“Our job as product people is to manage the risk of product failure,” Holly says. “Part of that risk is to avoid looking bad in front of our teams, peers, and managers. We have to shift the mindset and the conversation away from right or wrong so that we can begin to pride ourselves on learning new things.”

Product leaders have an enormous role to play here, Holly adds. “The only way for us to make that mindset shift is for us to be the example by calling out when the people around us learn something new and saying, ‘that’s what we want to see more of!’”

Listen in to catch more from Holly:

[02:16] The product science method. It’s really about the difference between what people say they will do and what they actually do.

[02:58] Design experiments around past behaviors, not abstracts and hypotheticals.

[04:51] The role of data and metrics. The cool thing about software is we can actually measure how users behave. The right metrics …that’s the best possible predictor of future behavior.

[07:42] Why smart companies with reams of data still make flawed product launches. They’re too comfortable.

[08:25] The Emperor’s New Clothes. Do we have the willingness to be uncomfortable, to be the person who will stand up and say to the boss, “here are the reasons why your pet project is going to fail.”?

[10:12] Confirmation bias. Channeling Richard Feynman, “you must not fool yourself, and you are the easiest person to fool.”

[10:45] Rapid research. You have to be super-focused on the most important thing to learn and let go of the idea that you might not learn the other things.

[12:38] Exposure therapy. The more times that you’re exposed to something, the more comfortable you become with it.

[15:05] Optimism bias. Gets in the way of making good business decisions like so, so much.

[16:14] How long does it take to change somebody’s mind about their pet project?

[17:49] The role of experimentation. It’s not about being right. It’s about learning things we don’t already know.

[21:19] Premortem risk assessment. Put yourself in a place where risk is already assumed to be real.

[22:34] Our job as product people is to manage the risk of product failure.

[24:02] The difference between good and fantastic product research.

[25:46] Take a snapshot. Make sure that your team is situating who your customer is within the strategy of the product.

[27:22]  Practicing discovery. As a product leader, you should have a strategy that is a series of product-market fits.

[28:27] Measuring the value of research. Two parts: quantify the value of research and know when you’ve done enough of it.

[32:10] “Faster horses.” At least you know what outcome your users want.

[33:48] Innovation. Innovation drives a significant change. It doesn’t just increase the amount of something you’re selling: the revenue, the number of users. It changes the rate of that.

Holly’s Recommended Reading

Indistractable, by Nir Eyal.

Check out more of Holly’s insights by catching her H2R Product Science articles and podcast.

About Holly

Holly Hester-Reilly is the Founder and CEO of H2R Product Science, a product management coaching and consulting firm that teaches the science of high-growth product development. Holly is a former Columbia University research scientist and has led over a dozen successful digital product initiatives at startups, high-growth companies, and enterprises like MediaMath, Shutterstock, Lean Startup Co., and WeightWatchers. With those experiences, she has developed the Product Science Method, a framework to discover the strongest product opportunities and lay the foundations for high-growth products, teams, and businesses. 

Her team at H2R Product Science partners with startup founders and product leaders to share this framework, helping them to figure out which product growth opportunities they should pursue and build the product management skill to deliver on their goals. 

Holly also teaches public and private workshops and has spoken about building high-growth products for events such as Lean Startup Summit Europe, growth equity firm General Atlantic’s CIO summit, top boutique design and development agency Thoughtbot’s employee summit, ProductTankNYC, Parsons School of Design, and the Product School.

Be sure to tune in as Holly hosts The Product Science Podcast.

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32 / Take An Objective Approach to Prioritization


A lot of times product managers take a overly narrow view of prioritization without giving full consideration to the impact of decisions we make. Whether to add another new feature to our backlog – and which one? Is there a new market segment we should explore? Do we need a new vision for our product? For the organization?

In this episode of the Product Momentum Podcast, Sean and Paul catch up with Jeff Lash – Vice President of Product Management Research at Forrester. Too often, Jeff says, stakeholders see the viability of an opportunity but not its feasibility (and vice versa). We take an overly subjective approach to prioritization and lose sight of the vision we set for the product and organization.

Listen in as Jeff describes his approach to prioritization. By applying a more objective standard – in fact, Jeff recommends establishing a prioritization framework – product teams act with confidence guided by a vision and strategy that are both clearly articulated and widely communicated across the organization.

Product managers, he believes, need to be general managers of their “commercially minded enterprise, so we need to act like the business owner, running our products like a business.”

Here’s more:

[02:51]  Why the product manager role is so misunderstood. Has anyone ever taken the time to explain, “this is what we expect of you.”?

[03:39]  Vision and strategy. Do product managers understand that this is part of their role?

[05:11]  Balancing the tactical and strategic. It’s about mindset, understanding all the responsibilities.

[07:03]  Product management in a remote environment. The more distant you are from your team, the more you need to document and communicate.

[08:40]  What’s your horizon? If your vision and strategy hold true for the long term, avoid dramatic shifts.

[10:21]  3 levels of prioritization. Sprint, Release, Organization.

[11:36]  Is there such a thing as the perfect formula?

[13:12]  Decision making in the absence of strategy and vision. Good luck.

[15:07]  Frameworks. Help the process along by making it as objective as possible.

[18:53] The definition of product management.

[20:32] Which personas need your attention most? Understand (and balance) the broad range of user personas as well as buyer personas.

[21:41] Incremental revenue vs. Retention effect. One addresses why people buy, the other why people stay.

[26:30]  Guiding principles. Does this feature help one of our guiding principles? If yes, add it to the backlog. If not,.…

[28:44] Fly your banner. Discipline in the face of initial challenges.

[29:29] Decision making is not about yes and no. It’s about understanding the impact of both.

[31:32] Hidden treasures. If you want to find those hidden treasures, the unmet needs, you have to apply different techniques.

[33:10] Citing Margaret Mead. “What people say, what people do, and what people say they will do are entirely different things.”

[35:15] Innovation. How do you take an idea and make it a reality? How do you take an idea and turn it into something that is actually in the market?

Jeff’s Recommended Reading

Blue Ocean Strategy: How To Create Uncontested Market Space And Make Competition Irrelevant, by W. Chan Kim and Rene Mauborgne.

Want more Jeff? Check out his blog, How To Be A Good Product Manager.

About Jeff

Jeff Lash is a recognized thought leader in product management, with 15+ years experience in the development of Web-based products and SaaS. His product management career includes both new product introductions and major turnarounds of existing product lines, as well as introduction of the product management role into organizations.

In his current role as VP, Group Director, Product Management Research at Forrester, Jeff and his team help product management leaders create world-class organizations and elevate the abilities and expertise of their teams to drive measurable and repeatable product success and business growth.

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