Before we jump headlong into implementing Lean or Agile. Before we decide that OKRs offer the best chance to set goals and measure results. And before we determine that a particular design methodology will lead us to successful product development, product leaders need to understand the “underlying cultural things about teams and about companies that need to be addressed first.
“You’ve got to get straight the ‘why are we here?’ questions,” says Bruce McCarthy, who joined Sean and Paul in this episode of the Product Momentum Podcast. According to Bruce, the founder of Product Culture and author of the book, Product Roadmaps Relaunched, we cannot meet our lofty goals – let alone the aspirational ones – without first embracing the cultural aspects that explain our place in the world.
What problems are we solving? Why, and for whom? How will we work together to achieve our objectives? What is our mission – our purpose in the world?
When we focus on these questions, we begin to understand the intersection of product culture and product management. In many ways the two overlap, Bruce explains.
Product management is “a role, a discipline, and a set of tools and responsibilities.” Product culture, on the other hand, is less tangible. It gives valuable insight about how product managers prioritize resource allocation, formulate decisions, and deliver value for their customers.
In many ways, good product culture is a “we know it when we see it” sort of thing. What’s most enlightening is the way Bruce brings to life an organization’s culture through the eyes of the customer.
Product culture has a Vision that empowers the customer, a Plan that delivers value in incremental steps along the path to vision fulfillment, and an outcome-based effort by a diverse Team aligned around that common vision.
Tune in to hear more from Bruce, including:
[02:01] Product Culture talks about those cultural aspects of why we’re here, how we work together, how we think about the purpose of going to work every day that’s mostly on my mind.
[03:49] Product management and product culture. Considerable overlap, but significant differences.
[03:49] Three elements of product culture: vision, plan, team.
[06:45] “Things are impossible until they’re not.” It’s the history of Innovation.
[07:52] Innovation is not about changing technology. It’s about our perception of what’s possible.
[10:33] Have you heard the story of General Magic?
[13:29] Product as vehicle. Radhika Dutt: “A product is a vehicle for making change in the world.”
[14:01] What killed Blackberry? They forgot, or never realized, that they were a status symbol.
[15:15] Product success and the Venn diagram. When feasible and viable come into overlap.
[15:59] The product manager’s role in roadmapping. Speak vision into the roadmap.
[17:30] The right feature? It depends on what problem you’re trying to solve.
[21:20] Outcome teams. The 4th level of product teams.
[24:49] The nature of software development. Building one-offs for the first time, every time.
[28:04] Prioritization. Why it’s the fundamental skill of the product manager.
[32:34] Tactics for up-and-coming PMs. Agree, prioritize, align, repeat.
[37:40] Imagination. The ability to envision something that does not yet exist.
[40:31] Innovation. Feasible, viable, badass.
Bruce’s Recommended Reading:
Team Objectives – Overview, by Marty Cagan. Silicon Valley Product Group. February 24, 2020.
Off to Be the Wizard, by Scott Meyer.
Product Roadmaps Relaunched: How to Set Direction while Embracing Uncertainty, by C. Todd Lombardo, Bruce McCarthy, Evan Ryan, and Michael Connors.
Bruce McCarthy helps growing organizations achieve their product visions through workshops, coaching, and speaking at events around the world. Bruce co-wrote Product Roadmaps Relaunched: How to Set Direction while Embracing Uncertainty and opines regularly about Product Culture.