By challenging the status quo, embracing change, and prioritizing value creation over feature delivery, you can become the hero of your own product management journey and drive meaningful change in your organization.
Talk transcript of David Pereira – recorded on 19 Apr 2023 Product Management
David Pereira is a passionate Product Leader with 15+ years of experience in Agile teams and Product Management. He helps product teams deliver real value faster and overcome challenges. With a diverse background in sectors like automobile and e-commerce, David shares his knowledge through writing and coaching.
Currently, as the CEO of omoqo GmbH, he focuses on innovating the maritime industry. Notable achievements include being a top writer on product management, co-authoring the Agile Product Manifesto, and driving innovation in the secondhand car market. David Pereira is committed to empowering teams and simplifying how they work.
Often, when you are hired as a product manager, you envision yourself as the CEO of the product, brimming with excitement. However, the reality sets in when you encounter the corporate firewall, and at best, you become a mere backlog manager. Frustration ensues as you grapple with the uncertainty of how to navigate this situation.
You’re not alone in this plight. Consider the case of a software engineer who yearns to create clean, robust, and scalable solutions. You aspire for millions of users to benefit from your work and take pride in your achievements. Yet, you discover that success is defined by delivering features that no one truly cares about. This misalignment can leave you feeling disillusioned, questioning the purpose of your efforts.
Product designers face similar challenges. Their ultimate goal is to simplify people’s lives and craft intuitive user experiences. However, they soon realize that the metric of success lies in producing high-fidelity prototypes that gain management approval. The true essence of their work, improving user experience, often takes a backseat to appeasing higher-ups.
After reflecting on fifteen years of experience, David has come to a realization. Regardless of where you find yourself, there are numerous traps waiting to ensnare you along your product management journey. Identifying these pitfalls used to be a red flag for David, leading him to reconsider joining a company. Nowadays, he seeks out these anti-patterns and actively works towards transforming them into opportunities for improvement. This endeavor, which he terms “Untrapping product teams,” serves as the focal point of today’s discussion.
Now, let’s delve into the dynamics of product teams within organizations, be it a startup or a large corporation. Amidst the various teams, including leadership, C-level executives, and others, lies the product team. Some companies refer to them as tech teams, while others label them as discounting teams. Regardless of the nomenclature, these individuals are responsible for shepherding the product’s life cycle.
What becomes evident across all teams, regardless of their function, is their ability to generate brilliant ideas and strive for excellence. The product team is no exception; they possess their fair share of visionary ideas.
However, a common challenge arises when the product backlog continues to expand exponentially. The members of the product team find themselves engaged in endless discussions, collaborating with colleagues from various departments, tirelessly striving to determine the best course of action. This perpetual dialogue may become wearisome, but the backlog must not be allowed to grow uncontrollably. Eventually, after much deliberation, something emerges from the depths of the product backlog—a shimmering gem, a new feature that garners adoration from everyone within the organization. This achievement becomes their pride and joy.
Yet, upon closer examination of this scenario, a crucial element seems to be missing. The product team focused predominantly on internal communication, nurturing and bringing to fruition their exceptional ideas. However, when the feature is presented to end-users and customers, the reception is lukewarm at best. They fail to resonate with what has been developed.
As we delve deeper into the challenges of product management, it becomes evident that creating solutions solely based on our personal preferences, while disregarding the users’ needs, is not the essence of our role. We exist for a higher purpose, one that extends beyond our own satisfaction.
One challenge that presents itself is the allure of a timeline, where we embark on a journey of refining ideas. This often involves extensive discussions and prioritization, leading us to select a single idea to pursue. At this stage, a high-fidelity design is created, pleasing management and instilling a sense of accomplishment. Curiously, software engineers are often excluded from this design process, as it is commonly perceived as a domain exclusively for designers. However, the real test lies in user testing.
When testing our designs with users, our bias clouds our judgment. Having already fallen in love with our solution, we tend to seek confirmation rather than objective feedback. Adjustments may be made here and there, but we are inclined to believe that our solution is right. The development stage arrives, and developers, feeling excluded from the earlier design phase, may harbor frustrations. Nevertheless, they work diligently to bring the creation to life, resulting in a grand unveiling. But here’s the catch—the end-users, the ones we intended to impress, often fail to appreciate our efforts.
This classic approach to product management leads to a myriad of wasted endeavors and an abundance of discarded work. It’s disheartening to witness so much effort and time go down the drain, creating an environment where creating valuable outcomes is a rare occurrence.
It’s crucial to acknowledge a simple yet profound truth: not all ideas will succeed. Research corroborates this notion, revealing that 90% of startups are bound to fail within five years. The same principle applies within companies—many ideas simply do not make sense. Therefore, it becomes imperative to identify the flawed concepts swiftly, allowing us to focus on the ideas that truly matter.
9 out of 10 ideas will fail
Instead of fixating on how quickly we can deliver a product, our primary concern should be eliminating bad ideas as efficiently as possible. This shift in mindset paves the way for creating real value and achieving meaningful outcomes. The key lies in dedicating time and effort to separate the wheat from the chaff.
The question is: How fast can we drop bad ideas?
To foster a better understanding of the challenges at hand, let’s conduct a product check together. I invite you to visit Multimeter, where we can assess your experiences and mindset regarding product management. Your input is valuable as we explore critical aspects of the product development journey.
The first aspect we will examine is the mindset of “output over outcome.” This perspective places excessive emphasis on delivering features without considering their impact on users. It disregards the significance of creating meaningful experiences and fails to prioritize user-centricity. I am eager to hear your insights on this matter.
The second potential pitfall we need to address is the dominance of opinions over evidence. While everyone possesses their own opinions, decisions should be guided by solid evidence. It is crucial to prioritize empirical data and seek ways to gather evidence to support our choices. Opinions should never overshadow concrete evidence in the decision-making process.
Another common trap is favoring a prescriptive roadmap over embracing adaptability. A roadmap brimming with features may appear enticing, but it often leads to trapping the team in rigid constraints. A more effective approach is to focus on outcomes and remain open to pivoting or discarding ideas that do not align with the desired results. Flexibility allows for continuous improvement and provides the team with multiple opportunities to achieve success.
Additionally, we must shed the undue weight placed on deadlines and prioritize the goals themselves. While certain deadlines may be necessary due to legal or external factors, it
In order to navigate the challenges we face in product management, it is essential to change our perspective and approach. Rather than succumbing to panic, we must view these challenges as opportunities for growth. It is crucial to redefine the equation and shift from an output-focused mindset to one that prioritizes outcomes, evidence over opinion, and other vital aspects. By embracing this change, we can create a brighter future for product management.
“Many times, we start doing bullshit management instead of product management”
A perplexing reality we often encounter is the shift from product management to what David Pereira aptly calls “bullshit management.” This phenomenon arises when we become entangled in activities that do not contribute to creating value. Though it may sound harsh, it is essential to confront this reality and understand its implications. Spending time on endeavors that yield no value can drain our energy and hinder our progress. Recognizing this trap is the first step toward freeing ourselves from the shackles of bullshit management.
Bullshit management is the art of spending time doing things that bring no value, but drain your energy. The more bullshit you handle, the less value you create.
One common trap in product management is falling into the “waiter pattern.” In this scenario, product managers simply take requirements from stakeholders and offer a solution without fully understanding the underlying needs or providing the necessary context to the team. This approach falls short of true product management, which involves delving deeper to uncover the real needs and reflecting upon more profound questions.
Another critical consideration is the size of the product backlog. While some may argue that a large backlog keeps the team constantly engaged, it can hinder their ability to think creatively and create space for reflection. Striking a balance is key; a lean and focused backlog allows for more effective product management, without the burden of unnecessary tasks and distractions.
One pitfall that many product managers fall into is an output-oriented approach. It’s crucial to challenge ourselves with a simple question: when was the last time we removed a feature from our product? The notion of a great product should not be centered around the number of features it possesses, but rather the value it delivers. A truly exceptional product is one where nothing more can be removed without compromising its core value. By shifting our focus to delivering value, rather than chasing an ever-expanding feature set, we can create products that truly resonate with our users.
The pursuit of consensus can be a double-edged sword in product management. While it may seem beneficial to reach a compromise that satisfies everyone, it can lead to suboptimal outcomes. Each team member brings their unique expertise to the table, and it is vital to trust their judgment in their respective domains. Designers, for example, are best suited to address usability concerns. By deferring to their expertise and avoiding the pitfalls of consensus, we allow for the emergence of innovative and effective solutions.
As product professionals, we must be mindful of the bottlenecks we inadvertently create within our teams. Traditional approval processes, where a product manager acts as the sole authority, can hinder progress and disempower team members. Instead, our role should be to provide the right context, enabling the team to make informed decisions and take ownership of their work. By fostering trust and empowering the team, we eliminate unnecessary approval steps and allow for greater collaboration and efficiency.
Moreover, the notion of being a communication bridge between business and tech, while well-intentioned, can inadvertently create silos. Rather than acting as a proxy, product professionals should strive to be catalysts, facilitating open communication between team members. This means encouraging designers to engage with the business side and software engineers to interact with end-users. By connecting individuals and promoting cross-functional collaboration, we break down barriers and pave the way for value creation.
Every “yes” we say brings a new responsibility and diverts our focus. On the other hand, saying “no” allows us to make deliberate decisions and maintain our concentration. The fear of uttering this small word can be perilous, as saying “yes” often leads to distraction and blurs our goals. By recognizing the danger of avoiding “no,” we can break free from the cycle of bullshit management and create more space for effective product management.
To shape a future where our products truly thrive, we must reimagine the way they are created. Instead of getting caught up in extensive discussions about individual ideas, we can adopt a more pragmatic approach. Evaluating each idea against our product vision, strategy, and goals allows us to determine their relevance. By focusing on the most valuable ideas and discarding those that fall short, we can streamline our product backlog and maintain clarity of purpose.
Creating value requires the right ingredients and a deliberate approach. Begin by examining your current product environment and assessing its adherence to key elements. Consider factors such as the product vision, strategy, objectives, principles, and business model. The goal is not to merely possess these elements, but to actively utilize and apply them in your product management process. Each ingredient contributes to the overall success of your product, increasing the likelihood of creating value.
Taking control of your product’s direction begins with influencing its delivery. Rather than focusing solely on feature implementation, start by identifying and questioning the assumptions behind each feature. Assess the criticality of these assumptions to the business and determine the evidence available to support them. By naming and prioritizing the most critical assumptions, you can conduct focused tests and gain valuable insights. This mindset empowers you to influence outcomes, product strategy, and other crucial aspects of product management.
Conducting a thorough evaluation of your product management process is essential for continuous improvement. Engage your team in an exercise that examines various aspects, such as the product vision, value proposition, customer interviews, and ideation. Assess how frequently these elements are utilized and whether they are generating desired outcomes. Additionally, scrutinize your delivery approach, measuring results beyond meeting deadlines to focus on impact and value creation. Through these assessments, you can identify areas of improvement and take deliberate steps towards enhancing your product management practices.
You hold the power to shape your product management journey. You can either passively accept the status quo and become a victim of circumstances or take charge as the hero of your own story. Embrace the role of a driver, challenging the existing norms and seeking continuous improvement. Although this path may be challenging and not everyone will appreciate it, it offers the opportunity for meaningful change. The choice is yours—where do you want to be in your product management journey?
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