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…
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.