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There are times when we all feel a bit beat down by life or circumstances, so this is a blog to explain five reasons why you are lucky – or blessed. I know what you might be thinking – this blogger doesn’t even know me. How can she presume that I am lucky? Let’s examine five reasons.
1. You are smart.
We can discern this fact – and yes, it is a fact – because you can read. Only literate people read blogs AND you are smart enough to navigate the internet to find this blog AND you are smart enough to have access to a computer. So if you are doubting yourself or your worth, know that you ARE smart.
2. You live in a country that has freedom.
The fact that you are able to access this blog means that you live in a country that allows its citizens to share controversial ideas and to learn and grow from different opinions. That is a beautiful thing that is worthy of celebration. You are lucky to be afforded such freedom.
3. You are interested in learning.
The act of wanting to expand your horizons, to learn new things and to explore differing points of view is a gift. You are engaged in life and that is a great thing. There are people who have given up, who are jaded or uninterested and feel like their best days are behind them. You are not that person. By virtue of the fact that you are interested in internet musings means that you are an active participant in this life and good for you. That zeal makes you a lucky person.
This week’s blog is a bit more personal, just because it is what I am experiencing right now. My mom is having her leg amputated. That is a big deal. Fortunately, I am here with her and I will be able to see her through the surgery and rehab. But as I have spent more time with her in the days leading up to the loss of her leg, I know with great certainty that she will come through this surgery fine because she possesses several key assets.
1. Positive Attitude – my mother has always been a ‘glass half full person.’ She will often comment on the blessings of a sunny day, warm cup of coffee, hummingbirds at the feeder, a roof over her head, and a phone that rings with calls from loved ones. Things that some of us take for granted, she treasures. Mom is a genuinely positive person and that grateful outlook is going to serve her well as she will undoubtedly face some interesting challenges in the weeks and months to come.
2. Friends and a Support Network – Over the course of my mom’s life, she has invested in her friendships. She takes the time to make calls and send cards. With each friend, she celebrates the joys and mourns the losses. Being a good friend isn’t always easy, but it has always been a priority for Mom. She has friendships that have lasted over 60 years and since we found out about this latest surgery, her phone has been ringing off the wall. She has worked hard to cultivate these relationships. She has given away so much love and support and now it is coming back to her tenfold.
3. Sense of Humor – We laugh a lot in my family. Last week in the hospital, one of her more serious doctors came in to convey the very serious news that, despite reviewing all possible alternatives, we were going to have to amputate. My mother immediately responded with “well, at least I will get half-off on my pedicures.” The doctor was truly speechless so we launched into a whole series of amputation jokes – “you are so lucky that you will only have to shave one leg.” “Should you change your name to Eileen?” “No more of that ugly bunion!” And on and on… Approaching life’s hiccups with a sense of humor and laughter always seems to lighten the load.
As we approach this huge event in my mom’s life that will truly change everything, I know that she will be fine. She has the right attitude, an amazing support group and a wonderful sense of humor. If we could all be so lucky to possess those traits in our trials, we would surely be a leg up. Ha, ha!
We just returned from a week in Orlando where we spent three glorious days in Walt Disney World and three spectacular days at Universal Studios Orlando. It was a great vacation and one we will remember for a lifetime!
Since I am a Product Management geek (and proud of it), I couldn’t help pondering what the Disney experience can teach us about Product Management and I came up with three key take-aways.
The Disney parks are very transparent about their wait times. They are clearly posted at the entrance to each ride and they are even available on the Apps so you can access the wait times for a particular ride when you are sitting across the park, enjoying a beverage or waiting for a different ride. This transparency allows you to plan to make the most of your time in the park. If there is a ride you are only mildly interested in and it has a 45 minute wait, you might decide to pass on it. If there is a must-do ride and the wait drops to 15 minutes, you might run over there to take advantage of the lull. I liken the posted wait times to a Product Management Roadmap. Our customers want to know when a specific enhancement or feature will be available. The timing doesn’t have to be extremely precise, just as the Disney wait time cannot be calculated to the exact minute, but it does need to provide an idea on when something can be expected so your customers can make informed decisions about what they are going to do. If a critical feature for a certain customer is on the roadmap in the next quarter then they can plan how best to take advantage of that feature and perhaps even plan coding on their side if integration is required. Being provided with time-frames helps us to organize our agendas and maximize our resources and time.
Sometimes our efforts to speak in glossy marketing terms can go to far – to the point that no one knows what you are talking about anymore. Let me provide two examples:
- Mad Tea Party – spinning ’round in a cup.
- Storm Force Accelatron – help the X-Men’s superhero Storm in her battle against the evil Magneto.
The first example is from Disney’s Magic Kingdom – a bit light on words, but pretty descriptive. The second comes from Universal’s Islands of Adventure. The ride sounds wicked and I totally want to help Storm defeat evil forces, but I have no idea what the ride actually does. Would you believe that is the same ride?! Disney’s spinning apparatus is a tea cup, Universal’s is some sort of electron, but the essence of the ride is the exact same.
The lesson for us Product Managers – don’t get so caught up in being cool that you lose sight of the information that you need to convey.
Cost vs. Value
Perhaps the most valuable lesson that Disney has taught us is that people – millions of them, in fact – are willing to pay premium prices for a great service. The amount of money that we spent for our one week vacation is painful to think about. But we were willing to pay it and we have no regrets because the service was differentiated, reliable and we valued it. There is no place in the world like Disney Parks with their characters and perky cast members and unbridled enthusiasm for creating a Magical Experience. What they do is differentiated – it sets them apart from the local Six Flags. The service is also reliable. Whether you go in December or June, in rain or heat, on a Tuesday or a Saturday, the Disney crew is going to greet you with the same energy and joy. You can tell your friends and neighbors about it and feel very confident that they will have the same experience. And finally, the service is valued. When my ten year old daughter looked up at me and said, “Mom, there is no place in the world that I would rather be,” that is valuable. And I am willing to pay for that kind of value.
As product managers, we shouldn’t shy away from premium pricing if (and it’s a big IF), we are delivering a service that is differentiated, reliable and valued. People will pay for great experiences.
In conclusion, we product managers can learn a thing or two from Disney – or perhaps just reinforce what we already know. Roadmaps with “wait times” help people plan, marketing messages that are too clever could fail to provide the necessary information and premium pricing is warranted for great service. Thanks, Mickey, for a great week and memories that will last a lifetime.
Can one person be both a Product Owner and a Product Manager? After spending nearly three years combining the role, I have now come to the conclusion that the answer is no. It is an “or” – you are either a Product Owner OR a Product Manager. Now, that is not to say that one cannot grow from one role to the other, but trying to perform both functions at the same time can be counter-productive. Here are the reasons that have led me to this conclusion.
Inward vs. Outward
The Product Owner needs to be inwardly focused and their highest priority is the success of the Scrum team that they are working with. Ideally, they are co-located with the Scrum team, if not at the same table, then at least in the same building. The product owner needs to be accessible, engaged and integrated.
The Product Manager, on the other hand, needs to be outwardly facing. The product manager is responsible for conducting client interviews, evaluating market trends and reviewing competitive activity. Pragmatic Marketing takes is a step further to say, for the Product Manager: “The answer to most of your questions is not in the building.”
A great Product Owner is focused on the tactical deliverables of this sprint and the next few in queue. Product Owners also tend to be fairly technical (sometimes very technical) in their knowledge of the product. They have to be able to collaborate with the IT teams on the best ways to deliver a desired feature. Of course, it is IT that ultimately owns the technology, but a strong Product Owner can banter about the technical alternatives and add significant value to the conversation.
By contrast, the Product Manager needs to be dialed into the strategic vision for the product and perhaps the portfolio of products. The Product Manager should have a plan for where this product needs to be in two years or more. Where is this product going? What is its place in the market? How do we differentiate ourselves today and how can we distance ourselves from the competition in the future? These are questions that the Product Manager needs to craft a strategy around.
The Product Owner and the Product Manager also vary in terms of the research, blogs and materials that they read and study. Product Owners are likely reading about Agile best practices and studying how to write more effective user stories and conduct efficient grooming meetings and enhance communication between team members. Whereas Product Managers are likely spending time on the Forrester and Gartner websites, gleaning industry and market information about trends and adoption. Product Managers have Google Alerts set for updates from the competition and other trend-setters.
Levels of Client Engagement
It is common for Product Owners and Product Managers to have different contacts with existing clients and significantly different conversations with those clients. The Product Owner might be deeply engaged with the user community of the software and discuss, in detail, the priorities of upcoming functionality. While the Product Manager is probably talking to the leadership of the existing client’s organization to discern their future business needs and how the product (or portfolio) needs to grow and adapt to the changing market. Not that either conversation is more important, they are just different – different levels of detail at different levels within the organization.
Do they have any similarities? Of course! Both the Product Owner and the Product Manager are totally focused on the success of the product and driving the most business value for the company. Both are dedicated to the success of the IT teams and want to deliver a great product to the marketplace. Both are critical for the success of the product. By separating the roles between the Product Owner and the Product Manager, you can position both for success and create something to be proud of.
Like everyone, I have some personality quirks that drive my behavior and response to situations. One of those – my determination to adhere to self-assigned goals – has been top of mind lately. You see, I set a goal of writing 52 blogs in 2013, one per week. No one asked me to do this and I am not sure that many people even read them. But I established this goal and I had a 4 week lapse in my delivery. Others might consider a job change and all of the associated networking, traveling and interviewing as a good excuse for a hiatus, but not me. I said 52, darnit, so I have some catching up to do.
This personality quirk makes me smile. The need to honor my commitments to myself, even if it is inconvenient, is just part of who I am. Hopefully my tenacity will suffice and I will be able to write the full 52, even if that means I am blogging on New Year’s Eve!
But this gets me thinking – why am I this way and how can I turn this ‘quirk’ into an asset? Here’s is what I have come up with:
- Set meaningful goals – Blogging for the sake of blogging might not be the best use of my time so I need to ensure that blogging is also contributing to a higher purpose, like furthering the brand of my company, or my personal brand. Or conveying information about subjects like Agile and Product Management that others might benefit from.
- Manage time effectively – make sure that the goals are achievable. Saying that I am going to work-out every day or write three thank you notes each morning or read for one hour each evening – those aren’t really achievable. I need to give myself the time to do what I committed to do and the flexibility to know that life will inevitably get in the way.
- Avoid tortuous activities – I need to only commit to the things that I enjoy and that serve a noble or entertaining purpose. For me to commit to gardening or (heaven forbid) cooking would be disastrous. I don’t enjoy those things, I am not good at them and I really have no passion develop an aptitude for them. I need to stick with what I enjoy – while certainly stretching and going outside my comfort zone – but not undertaking something that I would dread.
I hope this resonates with you and can help you set new goals and see them through. It is a great sense of accomplishment when you reach the finish line and you can say “Oh yeah, I did that!”
It has been a month since my last blog and I actually have a good excuse for my lack of prose, which will also explain my new website. I am in the midst of a job change. I had three wonderful years at CDS Global and now I am looking forward to the next great adventure.
Before I focus solely on the windshield though, I always think it is beneficial to spend a moment looking in the rear-view mirror to savor and appreciate what was accomplished and learned. Here are the three things I am most proud of during my tenure at CDS Global.
1. Technology Roadmap
When I arrived in April of 2010, there was a keen awareness that we needed a technology story to get us to our next stage of evolution. Working with super-smart technologists, we started putting together plans. We had at least two false starts, but in September 2010, we unveiled a vision that has shaped our technology decisions ever since. The reason I am so proud of the Technology Roadmap is that we thought it through and then we stuck to it. Delivering on a tech vision is extra-challenging because the business and the technology changes as you are in the midst of implementing. Our vision was both solid and flexible, allowing us to adapt to new information while providing a strong foundation that advanced our capabilities. To be able to look at a document, nearly three years later, and realize that what were once boxes in a powerpoint diagram are now live, working elements in a layered architecture is pretty darn cool.
While I was at CDS Global, I wrote a number of blogs and I want to provide access, in case these topics are of interest. I have grouped them by topic.
Product Management (#ProdMgmt, #ProdMkting)
What exactly is Product Management?
Product Management: Assume Permission to Succeed
Product Management: An organizational retrospective
The Triple Constraint – It’s real and it has to be managed
The Third Option – Finding a new alternative
Product Management’s role in Sales Kickoff (SKO)
What does it take to launch a product?
- Part 1 – Product Definition
- Part 2 – Pricing
- Part 3 – Sales Enablement
- Part 4 – Hard Choices
- Part 5 – Communication Plan
Agile (#Agile, #Scrum)
I hope you enjoy these blogs and all of the more recent ones too!