Ash-Maurya

37 / Validate and Verify the Customer Voice

Description

Whatever we think we know about our users doesn’t always hold true when we release our products into the wild. Faced with compressed cycle times and pressure to release something, product managers sometimes fall in love with a product only later to discover we were among the few who did. Our mistake isn’t being passionate about the feature or solution; our mistake is failing to first measure our users’ response to it.

In this episode of the Product Momentum Podcast, Sean and Paul welcome Ash Maurya, founder and CEO of LEANSTACK and creator of Lean Canvas, a popular business modeling tool. “It’s about bringing in the customer voice,” Ash says, “and gathering the right qualitative and quantitative metrics – starting with qualitative.”

It’s the easier place to start, Ash continues. “With qualitative, we get to see patterns and learn the big themes – what I call ‘the signals and the noise.’ Validate qualitatively, but then verify quantitatively because otherwise you can get a lot of false positives.”

Throughout the pod, Ash shares insights about how product teams can close the gap between pre-launch conjecture and post-launch reality. By bringing the customer into a Discovery phase conversation where probing and listening are front and center, we’re able to sharpen our focus, test theories through experimentation, and create new experiences based on what we’ve learned.

Product leaders come to understand their customers in a deeper context. When we engage them beyond the functional nature of their challenge, we’re more likely to understand the problem they’re trying to solve at a truly emotional level. With that depth of appreciation, we can create impactful product design.

Be sure to catch the entire podcast conversation to hear Ash share the following:

[01:44] A big movement putting product at the center. In some ways, it’s always been there, there’s just a new awareness of it.

[03:40] The first order of business. Are we building something that gets used? Are customers engaging with this? That’s where I like to start; everything else layers on top.

[04:04] Qualitative metrics. Qualitative can give you a very strong signal one way or the other that you may be onto something. It’s very effective in finding problems.

[05:39] Validation and verification. An interesting distinction in light of the role qualitative and quantitative research plays.

[07:44] Jobs to be Done (and other frameworks). At first, I’m fascinated. But the thing that always troubles me is that it feels a bit like a magic trick. I see the result, but I don’t know how they got to it.

[08:19] Hiring and firing products. Even as I look across disruptive products, for every product that you build, there’s already a product, an existing alternative, that you are replacing.

[09:00] The bigger context. With every product, there’s the functional job, and there’s the emotional job.

[09:00] The drill bit example. Why are you drilling the hole in the first place?

[11:39] Understanding irrationality. How behavioral economics helps the marketer, innovator, and entrepreneur.

[12:59] Quantitative metrics. The quantitative is where the data proves the thing working at scale.

[12:59] Insight generation. That’s where all the interviewing and the qualitative learning comes into play.

[14:15] New products are fundamentally about some kind of behavior change.

[16:32] Habit loops and reward loops. As product folks, we sometimes have to add some kind of feedback loop that this product is working.

[17:35] “Using a lean canvas does not a lean startup make.” The difference between a team following process because they were forced to – not using the tool for its intended purpose.

[23:27] MVP and MVA. Build something smaller and then iterate and refine. The challenge is that today customers have no patience. Rightly so, because they have so many choices.

[25:50] The strategy of preeminence. If you can articulate user problems better than they can, they transfer expertise to you and that starts a conversation.

[27:40] The innovator’s bias. I want to build something cool and different and I don’t want to solve the obvious problems.

[27:40] The secret about new problems. They come from old solutions.

[29:38] The speed of learning. The only true, unfair advantage that you have.

[32:42] Innovation. I contrast innovation and invention. I look at invention as a new way of doing things, and I look at innovation as taking that new way, technology, method to market.

Ash’s Recommended Reading

The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business, by Charles Duhigg.

The Toyota Way: 14 Management Principles from the World’s Greatest Manufacturer, 2nd ed., by Jeffrey K. Liker.

To learn more about the tools and content discussed on the podcast, check out LEANSTACK.


About Ash

Ash Maurya is the author of two best-selling books – Running Lean and Scaling Lean. He is also the creator of the highly popular one-page business modeling tool, Lean Canvas.

Ash is praised for offering some of the best and most practical advice for entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs all over the world. Driven by the search for better and faster ways of building successful products, Ash has developed a systematic methodology for raising the odds of success built upon Lean Startup, Customer Development, and Bootstrapping techniques.

Ash is also a leading business blogger; his posts and advice have been featured in Inc. magazine, Forbes, and Fortune. He regularly hosts sold-out workshops around the world and serves as a mentor to several accelerators, including TechStars, MaRS, and Capital Factory. He guest lectures at several universities, including MIT, Harvard, and the University of Texas at Austin.

l
Listen READ MORE

Michael-Sacca

36 / Shaping the Product Manager’s Prime Directive

Description

What is the product manager’s prime directive? Most would argue we’re here to make the world a better place through the software products we create. But what do we do when we see product decisions being made that conflict with that directive, that cause us to manipulate users to our benefit instead of inspire them for the benefit of others?

It’s the sort of question that makes you take a “look in the mirror.” And one that Product Momentum Podcast guest Michael Sacca posed in response to a deceptively simple one that Sean and Paul ask every guest: What’s a book that you recommend to others, one that has shaped your career or current thinking?

We could not have anticipated Michael’s response: The Social History of the Machine Gun.  The John Ellis book describes how as a society we arrived at the machine gun as a form of deadly warfare. At every step in its evolution, Michael explained, product decisions were made to devise something that was more lethal than before.

As VP of Product at Dribbble, Michael describes the work of product managers as having to make thousands of similar decisions every day of our professional lives. Though the context of our work is vastly different from weapons of warfare, we too define scope, select new features, and satisfy requirements as part of our daily routine. But do we ever consider whether any of it is really necessary. Is our work helping to serve the prime directive – to make the world a better place?

Michael’s assessment of Ellis’ machine gun example serves as a jarring reminder that the choices we make can have significant impact on the world around us. It’s also a reminder of how a product manager’s leadership and influence can shape the experience for our customers and their users.

Michael put his own spin on the Shaping methodology (inspired by Ryan Singer’s book Shape Up) as a way to deliver impactful results for Dribbble. Listen in to hear more about how Shaping can help your team and organization to fulfill their prime directive.

[03:21] Ship more meaningful work, faster. Start to time box the other way. Rather than requiring the team to tell me how long something’s going to take, we just gave them six weeks to figure out how to ship something meaningful.

[04:26] Moving away from Agile, sort of. We’re not doing the usual Agile. We’re not going to stop and do a retro after 2 weeks. We’re not going to do grooming meetings. We’re not going to do any of that usual Agile stuff, because it didn’t give the team context.

[04:48] Shaping the work to build a happier, more productive team.

[06:18] The importance of building context. Our teams had a ticket, but they didn’t really know why we were doing what we were doing. Now all we do is give them a shaping document and they finalize the scope.

[07:16] Before, everyone was scared to cut scope. Now we’ve been able to refine the process to where we’re always building the most important thing and not wasting time on features that probably wouldn’t matter anyway.

[08:46] How to lose 70% of your team’s capability.

[09:41] What goes into the shaping artifact.

[11:43] “Inspiration is for amateurs.” – Chuck Close.

[13:03] The Dribbblization of Design. I think it is a very human and natural concept to collaborate together, and I think what we do is collect that trending information and give it back to the design community.

[14:58] Transforming product management from a cottage industry into a career that people now aspire to.

[15:21] Product manager as the “CEO of the product”? I don’t think we ever really fulfilled that.

[18:17] The constant evolution of product design. As humans, I think we’re always looking for something new. And that’s never going to change.

[20:35] The art and science of working together, separately.

[22:25] Shaping the space with 400 episodes of Rocketship.fm. What we’re trying to do is better understand the world around us as product managers.

[25:49] The most common cause of product failure. Interestingly, when done well, it’s also the most common cause of product success.

[27:41] Be aware of the influence we have as product managers.

[28:42] What is Innovation. Put simply, it’s a milestone in evolutionary progress.

[30:33] The book I always recommend to product people. The Social History of the Machine Gun, by John Ellis. It exemplifies what we have control of as product managers.

Michael’s Recommended Reading

The Social History of the Machine Gun, by John Ellis.


About Michael

Michael Sacca is the VP of Product at Dribbble. He started his career 15 years ago as a Product Designer, eventually founding a cutting-edge product agency that built applications for Scholastic, GE, Nike, Siemens, and more. He founded the design asset management software, Brandisty, which was acquired in 2014 and is now owned by InVision.

Michael was the President at Crew, the freelance design and development marketplace, and former parent company of Unsplash, the popular stock photo website. At Crew, he secured key partnerships with Squarespace and the BDC before leading the company through its acquisition by Dribbble in 2017.

His writing has been featured in the Harvard Business Review, and his popular product management podcast (rocketship.fm) has been written about in Inc, Forbes, The Huffington Post, and Entrepreneur, respectively.

Michael served on the board of AIGA in Las Vegas and taught web design as a Professor at the Art Institute.

t d

Listen READ MORE

Christopher-O'Donnell

35 / Building the Solutions the World Needs

Description

In this episode of the Product Momentum Podcast, Sean and Paul welcome Christopher O’Donnell, Chief Product Officer at HubSpot. Their conversation kicks off with a discussion of Trust, closes with Christopher’s definition of Innovation, and checks nearly every box in the product manager playbook along the way.

In a lively give-and-take that combines big ideas and “boots on the ground” pragmatism, Christopher explains how a product mindset, with clearly articulated goals and guardrails, brings a level of team autonomy that delivers product solutions and “delightful surprises.” Autonomous teams, he says, find better ways to solve problems than if leadership had simply given them their marching orders.

“Creativity comes from the constraints,” Christopher adds. When we give people products to build and problems to solve – along with those goals and guardrails – we not only get better solutions; we get empowered, autonomous teams.

“Let’s be clear. Autonomy is not chaos,” Christopher adds. “Autonomy is not doing whatever you want and optimizing for yourself or your team above the customer. Autonomy is the ability to make high-quality decisions without consulting a lot of people. But you don’t get that without the guardrails.”

Above it all, Christopher reminds us of the human story attached to our work. “I don’t care what you build; every day and every interaction involve users of our software. They’re real people, with real people problems.”

The ultimate goal of every product manager, he says, is to build the solution the world needs.

Listen in to hear Christopher’s thoughts on these topics:

[02:34] The Impact of Trust.  When you have organizational trust, you can attract really great people. You can retain really great people, and they will accomplish bigger, better things than what you could have told them to do.

[03:40] Product ≠ Project. We don’t give people projects. We give people products, with clearly defined goals and guardrails. And they own the successes and failures along the way.

[04:30] The Shift into Problems. Even better than giving people products is giving them problems.

[05:29] Intrinsic vs. Extrinsic Motivation. Hire their hearts and their minds.

[07:23] Titles do not matter. If it were totally up to me and I could start from scratch, everybody on our team would just have the title “Product.”

[07:38] As a resource, there’s no limit to intrinsic motivation.    

[11:07] Creativity comes from the constraints. In the same way that necessity is the mother of invention, creativity is borne from constraints.

[12:52] Mainsail. Invoking Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.

[15:26] A playbook, but not a process. It’s the mindset that things are not fixed in time, that we’re always here to adapt and learn.

[16:16] Autonomy. What it is; what it is not. The autonomy is real. Teams are actually making decisions for themselves.

[18:55] Size (of your release) matters. From a quality perspective, the larger your releases are, the harder they are to do in a really quality way. Smaller releases bring higher quality.

[21:02] Demo in production, or it didn’t happen.

[22:49] The problems Scrum solves. One is not being able to get to production and getting in front of customers. The second is getting hassled by everybody else at your company. Scrum is going to help you there.

[29:09] Scrum is a valuable set of guardrails.

[30:04] Building real empathy for your customers. Just how important is it?

[31:40] Relax; all the front-line product managers are faking it. Product management is a game of incomplete information.

[32:53] There’s always a human story. Users of software are people. And they have people problems. I don’t care what you build, there is a human story.

[34:37] What skill set(s) product managers need to be successful.  Curiosity and truth-seeking, absolutely.

[37:29] If the engineers lose faith, there is nothing I can do for you. If none of the teams is excited to work with you, you’re done.

[38:36] It all boils down to interpersonal effectiveness. The growth mindset. Intrinsic motivation. Double down on that, and you can’t go wrong, whatever you work on.

[38:51] Innovation. I think it’s one of two things. It’s either solving a problem that hasn’t been solved. Or solving a problem in a very different way.

Christopher’s Recommended Reading

The Innovator’s Dilemma: The Revolutionary Book That Will Change the Way You Do Business, by Clayton M. Christensen

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


About Christopher

Christopher O’Donnell is the Chief Product Officer at HubSpot, where he drives product management, design, and user experience for HubSpot’s suite of products.

Prior to this role, Christopher led the product team building the HubSpot CRM and HubSpot Sales Pro. Upon joining HubSpot, Christopher led the re-write of the HubSpot Marketing product, culminating in HubSpot Contacts and the release of HubSpot3 in 2012. Previously, Christopher was Director of Product at Performable before it was acquired by HubSpot in 2011. He has also been a startup founder, advisor, and product/UX leader.

In his free time, Christopher pursues his decades-long passions for building technology products, producing music, and playing guitar. Christopher graduated from Brown University with a BA in Computers and Music.

lt

Listen READ MORE

Enjoying the podcast? Sign up for email reminders to be the first to know about new episodes.