10 Tips to move Strategy Sessions Online

We’ve written this article to help you plan a focused and effective strategy session when you’re all online/virtual. This is targeted towards product strategy sessions, but these 10 tips will work as effectively for bigger company strategy sessions. Just a note – moving your session online takes work. At the very minimum you need 3 weeks of pre-planning. Start soon!

  1. Design for outcomes. Remember a strategy is the plan by which you achieve your company/product objectives. A strategy meeting is the means by which you collectively create the plan on which you’ll execute. This might seem obvious – but it’s easy to lose sight of the reason you’re bringing people together. We’ve been in lots of in-person strategy offsites that end up more as information sharing sessions – or team bonding, or an excuse to talk about loads of new ideas (shiny new object syndrome!).  Then all the decisions get made at the post-offsite strategy session. Virtual strategy sessions need to be designed carefully. Start by getting really clear on what you want at the end of the virtual sessions and what information is needed to achieve the results you’re looking for.  Are you looking to refresh your strategy entirely, or are you looking to validate existing strategy? Has your business set new growth targets because of the pandemic, do they have a new set of objectives for the coming year? What factors will you have to consider – COVID impact, competitor analysis, market research, customer learnings, sales & finance updates, technology needs – what has changed and what is relevant?  Now write down what success looks like – share them with your peers so that you’re on the same page. Here’s an example: We need to update 2 out of 4 of our existing strategies in order to meet the new growth target (list the two). A successful strategy session means that we have produced a draft set of product strategies that are aligned to the company objectives and strategy, and each team is positioned to create a set of initiatives that are driven by strategy.
Pin by Amanda Dykman on Ahhh...The Work Life | Work humor, Work ...
  1. Break it up: We’ve all been on all-day offsites where we immerse ourselves in strategy and so the urge to replicate the process is strong. But you just can’t possibly do an all day strategy online – it’s painful even thinking about sitting in front of your screen for that long for one meeting! We’ve learned that 2 hours is the ideal time to have the team fully engaged, energized and effective. We’ve tried longer periods and it’s hard to keep everyone focused. 1 hour isn’t quite enough – people are getting warmed up and you’ll find yourself going long anyway. Some teams have insisted that we work in 4 hour sessions – but we see fatigue set in, then we take longer and longer breaks – it just doesn’t work. We recommend a series of 2-hour sessions spread over a week. With the right planning, this set of sessions can be even more effective than an in-person offsite.
data:image/jpeg;base64,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
  1. Set mandatory pre-workTo make the most of 2-hours together, you need to set pre-work. As you determine success outcomes – you’ll naturally uncover the most relevant topic areas (competitor analysis, market/economy, customer success, etc.). Two-three pages of pre-reading for each area is recommended. Summarize each of main points:  clearly list market & customer insights that are most critical to the discussion, articulate each of the major problems that need to be addressed. Write these down  in a paragraph or two, providing key data and backup links for anyone wanting to dive deeper means that everyone coming to the sessions is prepared. You can send all the pre-work together a week before your session, or set your sessions to be 3 hours, with the 3rd hour individual time for the team member to do the pre-work each day. This isn’t easy – but it’s invaluable for having great sessions. And we recommend asking people not to attend if they haven’t done the pre-work, don’t let your sessions devolve into opinion-sharing. Keep discussions focused on facts/data.
  1. Assign Champions. Share the workload and assign champion to each of the major sections of work. This is a great opportunity to highlight your team, or to even ask important peers at your strategy sessions to lead. When you engage others in leading the pre-work research, or summarizing the data points – you take the burden off being the sole facilitator, and all the research coming from one voice. You want everyone at these sessions to feel ownership over the strategy that’s developed, and one of the best ways we’ve seen to achieve this, is by starting with ownership right from the start.
How to Lead Better Virtual Meetings - Duarte
  1. Write down assumptions. When doing the pre-reading, have the team write down their assumptions. This way, each team member is coming in prepared with a set of notes that lend themselves to a discussion. The pre-reading is not just for information, but to help form product strategies (remember #1, outcomes!). The reason we recommend this approach is that it helps provide the rationale for the opinion.  It’s much easier to invalidate a stated assumption, rather than argue opinions. We really don’t like opinion-based discussions if that isn’t already obvious. When the team can’t readily invalidate an assumption – this can easily be turned into a hypothesis that can be tested after the meeting. We know exactly what information we need to help us make sense of the data.
  1. Address the elephants. Don’t bury bad news in the pre-reading or avoid it altogether. Some of the teams we’re working with are losing their funding, others have seen their customers disappear or put purchase decisions on an indefinite hold. This is critical information, and it’s not business-as-usual. You want the most out of these strategy sessions – you want your teams to armed with all the data. The impact of the elephants are pretty significant in terms of how the company will respond – perhaps the growth targets have doubled, or the retention goal has increased significantly. Make sure the pre-reading provides the “why” and the context – and don’t avoid those big, hard problems.
3 lessons learned when developing a new product with the Minimum ...
  1. Standalone Ideation. It’s really easy for each of these 2-hr strategy sessions to devolve into ideation sessions. Once people have their pre-reading done, and they understand what the business is trying to achieve – they’ll want to solve problems – it’s natural. We’re all full of product ideas, and asking people not to share them can be painful (and derailing). But you don’t want to continually talk solutions before you get a full understanding of all the areas that need to be reviewed. We suggest having a shared whiteboard to capture all the ideas generated. Don’t have this as a shared screen, you don’t want it visible and distracting – you just want a place where people know that they can add their ideas/solutions. Once you’ve finished the information sessions, you can move into ideation for product strategies. This is towards the end, and a 2-hr focused session on strategy ideation is ideal. Having your list of whiteboard ideas is a perfect input for this. Your team can self-select which ideas move forward, and which go away now that they are fully armed with all the background.
  1. Small Discussions. We design our strategy sessions to be about 5 minutes together as a large team, then 15–20 minute sessions with a small team. By small team, we mean about 3–4 people, a group where everyone has a voice. We move in and out of this format — so that we’re constantly regrouping, sharing updates, and then going back into real discussions. Consider if you want random groups so that different people are constantly reviewing data. This is good when you have a close working team, and the groupings are less important. Perhaps you want to deliberately create cross-functional breakouts if you have invited others in the company — you’ll want to design each small groups to have a voice from all the functions that are represented. This is an important part of pre-planning, looking closely at putting the right people together.
  2. Document Collaboration is a must. Zoom, or teams, or whatever video software you use is insufficient. You want to be virtually around a working board where the pre-reading is loaded, the assumptions are listed – everyone can see and have access to the documents and be able to write their own thoughts/comments. We have been using the in-built notepad on zoom, and then Mural to share all documents. We pre-build our boards with stickies – color-coding for teams, and sometimes individuals – so that we can make sense of all the notes at the end of the session. Avoid a facilitator writing down other people’s ideas – it’s nowhere near as effective as enabling everyone to have control over exactly what and how much they contribute.
No! No! Not Another PowerPoint! (BoomerBlix)
  1. Lose the PowerPoints. Hopefully this goes without saying given the first 8 tips – we want the strategy sessions to be all about working together, discussions and making decisions. Feel free to create PowerPoints for pre-reading if that fits with your company culture. But by no means spend any time (not even 1 minute) sharing a PowerPoint deck. You’ll set the tone and expectation for this session if you avoid PowerPoints altogether. Let’s be clear – we’re still asking you to make sure that everyone understands the pre-reading. You should still start each session by recapping or highlighting the relevant facts, check in for understanding and questions and then jump into the assumptions that people have written down. Work through the data in a structured way. We just don’t want you reading slides!
Zoom party tips: Virtual hangout ideas for a fun night in - Los ...
Celebrate!

Bonus tip!: Don’t lose the happy hour. Last, consider how you can celebrate together at the end of the strategy session. Maybe it’s a separate hour after every session is complete – but it’s important to acknowledge the end of this hard work. Here are some ideas that we’ve experienced or seen work. Send everyone a bottle of wine, or their favorite beverage a few days in advance, so you can open it all together at the end of the session. It’s always fun getting a surprise in the mail! I took part in a chocolate tasting by an expert a few weeks ago – I was sent a package of 4 bars (yes, it was hard not opening those) and couldn’t wait for the event. It turned out to be a really fun experience, as we all opened packets and tasted together while the expert shared the history and taste notes of each bar. A month earlier, I was part of a sommelier experience, and the prep for that was to bring in the bottle of wine that you’d always been saving for a special occasion – so the only company expense was providing the expert. Hopefully these ideas get your creative juices flowing – whatever you do, mark the end of the session with something fun and a way to connect and have a shared experience.

Agile is GREAT, but…

Agile is great, but…

Agile is awesome. Nearly every Product Manager we know would agree. But I bet you’d be surprised by how many conversations we have with product leaders around their questions, issues and sometimes not-so-stellar experience with agile development. Questions & comments like:

  • Our product managers/owners feel constantly overwhelmed working day-day with dev, we have no time for innovation!
  • Anyone else have confusion over roles within their agile teams, or is it just us?
  • How are others dealing with technical debt, our seems to just keep growing…
  • Do you need to have both product managers and product owners?
  • We can’t expect our product owners to also be strategic…can we?

Agile is so clear about roles, and ceremonies. Backlogs are groomed continuously to focus on the highest priority. Customer Value is built right into the manifesto. So, why are there so many “we love agile, but…” conversations in the product management community. What’s going wrong? We have a hypothesis on why this is happening, and a proposal for a universal fix across all agile teams. Let’s start with three assumptions that we have about how we believe products should be built.

  1. Before you build…You know what is important to customers. There’s a loaded sentence. We built an entire business helping companies get this right. Anyone can create epics and sets of user stories — that’s easy. That’s how exploding backlogs happen. Because it’s just so easy to create work, and agile is a well-oiled machine designed to keep churning out work in tidy increments. But, as we all know, outcomes aren’t equal to effort. And meaningful business outcomes are those that prove we’re providing value — because customers buy and continue to invest in the products we deliver. All that comes from deeply understanding your customer.
  2. Before you build…You can define the customer problem. That doesn’t mean being able to describe all the incredible features you’re building. It does mean being able to state the customer problem that exists, independent of your product ever being launched in the world. That means, there are lots of ways to potentially solve the problem, but you (team, company), are uniquely positioned to deliver a solution that will win in the market. And btw, the problem should be a big enough pain that the customer is willing to pay to make it go away. When you can do this, you know you’ve got an important problem to solve.
  3. Before you build…You have a vision and a roadmap. A roadmap is not a rolling collection of features — it’s a clear, well-thought out, logical and prioritized map to achieve a vision. Having a vision is what allows you to make tough trade-off decisions, and it’s what keeps the team (and you) energized and motivated to make it happen through all the ups & downs of development. Having a vision starts with #1 & #2 above — knowing what’s important to the customer and what problem you’re solving.

If you buy into these assumptions — then let’s talk about how you can leverage them to make a big impact on how well agile can work for you. This is based on years of experience working as a product leader with with dozens of agile teams, and from our coaching practice improving the ways that product managers and product owners can succeed working within agile development.

You have to know where you’re going. Remember the bad old days of waterfall development? If you don’t, lucky you! For those of you who shuddered when we asked the question — you had flashbacks of writing massive requirements documents. But, the one (and maybe only) good thing was that it forced you to think about where you were going. You had to think about the big picture before you could break it down to endless requirements and (depressingly) writing down every possible exception. We’re not suggesting for a second we go back to the dark ages. However, what we’ve missed in our head-first dive into agile is providing the team with the big picture in a way that’s meaningful. That doesn’t mean one flashy PowerPoint slide of a vision, or some high-level product mockups which makes your CEO happy. We’re talking about providing a real schematic that offers a picture of where you’re going, and enough details that allow the teams working with you to ask great questions, offer alternatives and help improve the overall solution.

Let’s say you were giving the job of building a house, your first step probably wouldn’t have been to assemble a building crew, and say to the foreperson — we’re going to get started and build a room at a time. Let’s see where end up! Before you had a team start to pour concrete, or put up framing, you would have worked with an architect to create a plan. The inputs to that plan are customer needs. Imagine a home for a young couple, mobile, working from home, wants amenities/access such as pool/gym…and then think about a family with 4 kids, one member is in a wheel-chair, they entertain a lot, generally home-bodies. Very different needs, very different home. Your understanding of how the home would be used, the people who live inside, what they would do within their home — all of these are critical elements in understanding the type of building we’d create. We don’t expect a building crew to start building without a plan — and the opportunity to ask questions, and maybe suggest some changes that would make it cheaper to build, or offer additional value elements for the same price. Because they understand what you’re asking them to build — they can have a voice.

The same is true for a product — we need a picture of our customer, what she cares about, her habits and attitudes — and through understanding this, we enable our teams to imagine a real person that we’re building our product for. A product manager’s job is to provide this picture. Agile wants you to know these things -it really does. It just doesn’t give you any time to make it happen. If you forgive agile for not building in a ceremony just for product management, then it changes the way you will look at your development cycle. The way to coach teams to provide this critical information is to develop and share a Product Scope. A Product Scope gives the schematic, the plan for what you’re planning to build, it provides a picture to the team so they can imagine it. They can then connect with you on the plumbing, the electrics, they may even suggest shifting rooms around, or describing a completely different approach which you never imagined. This will happen because you have everyone on the same page, then…you can begin Sprint 0, start planning and happily create epics and write user stories. You all know where you’re going.

Having a Product Scope will change your experience with Agile

We’ll talk more about how to create a Product Scope in a follow-up post and the product work needed before sprint planning. We’ll give you a hint — writing kick-ass Product Scope documents comes from deep customer understanding, which starts with setting up hypothesis, ideating, prototyping, testing — all with customers.

Before we close, just a couple of extra agile tips for kicks. Spikes are not your friend. A lot of the time, we see customer research being placed on a sprint plan as “research spikes”. A spike, technically is something that is not clear to the team, or can’t be estimated well. The whole purpose is to provide an answer or solution so that the team can get going again. Assigning points to research is meaningless — your entire product success rests on your ability to learn from your customers and build that into every sprint. That’s right — you should be learning from your customer EVERY sprint. That doesn’t mean fitting them into research spikes. btw, spikes aren’t great for the team either, it impacts velocity and timelines and all the things your scrum master cares about. Don’t use them.

Build in Time to Watch Customers. Technically this isn’t an actual way to make agile work for you, but it’s just the very best gift you can give your team. It works whatever development method you’re using. It will change the way your team work. We suggest at the very minimum once a quarter, you should provide a way for your team to spend time watching customers. It will dramatically change the customer value your team delivers.

What other agile and product management tips do you have? Share your comments and thoughts.

It’s Product Roadmapping Season! Get some quick tips…And a helpful framework for the process

 

For many of us, roadmapping season is starting or about to start

We’re coming up to the end of the year and embarking on our new year.  And every year we walk into roadmapping with just a little dread. “Ugh, another 2+ months of research, debate, and planning gymnastics!”  “No one looks at it!” “By mid year, it’s blown up anyway!”

I’m here to tell you that if you approach it with the right principles and effort, the roadmap can be a great ongoing galvanizing operating mechanism in your company.  It can actually help you avoid shiny object syndrome too!

We should start with a couple basics…

Definition of Success of a Product Roadmap: 

  • Enables the business to achieve it’s goals; on time, within expectations
  • Provides a way for the entire organization to understand the prioritization, timing and relative sizing of solving major customer problems
  • Drives long term platform development scope & timing

We presume you have a documented business strategy and objectives that are used as a rudder throughout this process.  If not, we tell all our product managers…propose them and get agreement, so that you can build a supportive product roadmap.  I say that loosely, because it’s not that easy.  But without business strategy and clearly defined objectives/measures, what are you aiming for?  We have an online course for facilitating the definition of both if you find yourself in this position.

Okay, now for the main act…Here are some tips in achieving roadmap success:

Start with the Customer

No duh. Right?  Well, lets step back a second.  For many, this means “let’s do the features that our customers requested.”  That is not what we mean here.  Instead, it’s making sure that you have clear persona(s); personas that your team/company has agreed to.  This is not easy.  But if done right, you can actually ward off shiny objects that address problems of customers outside your persona sweet spot.  Having a clear persona helps people understand who you’re NOT going to solve in your roadmap as well.  We’ve got a couple posts on our blog about personas…try this oneContact one of our rebel leaders if you need a simple template that works!

Clearly Define Problems You’re Solving – Your Roadmap Themes

Most roadmaps are organized by 2 dimensions…time being the obvious one…and themes which are basically problems, strategies, or objectives for the business.  Each theme should be solving a very clear customer problem.  Having a clearly defined problem statement will help galvanize your team around what you are and are NOT solving for.  Having clear problem statements will help ward off shiny objects as well…”Hi Mr. shiny object thrower!  How does this shiny object serve the problems we agreed to solve in our roadmap?”  Most of the time you get “Well…uh…hmmmm….You’re probably right.  Let’s table it for now.”  The persona and problem statements help you justify tabling a shiny object.  If you don’t have those, it’s easy to get into an opinion-driven debate that usually ends up with that shiny object being added to the pipeline and other important initiatives are delayed or worse, never completed.

Facilitate Innovation/Design Thinking

You may already have clarity on target persona and a clearly defined problem AND a previously discussed set of initiatives that serve both.  Hopefully they are fully agreed to by the extended team.  But if you are questioning any one of those inputs or if you don’t have a shared vision on those inputs, then I would step back and ensure you are flexing your design thinking muscle.  Problem-driven brainstorming (with choice-ful attendees…creative minds, market experts (internal or external,) customers, partners, etc.) and other design thinking techniques will ensure the most impactful ideas are considered vs. just the squeaky wheels.  A quick set of customer interviews (5-10 targeted interviews can do wonders,) a brainstorming session, and a vote will drive far more committment than status quo thinking or focusing on the “sacred cows” in the organization.

Build Shared Vision…and Commitment

As a product manager, you’ve probably felt the pain at one point in your career of a lack of committment to the product roadmap…either someone from your leadership team, your development team, or your design team doesn’t agree with the prioritization or existence of some initiative and it makes it a painful process every time you have to justify it and ensure it’s given the attention it requires to be successful.  We’ve all been there.  Your job in this process is bringing team members in at the right time…Providing them the customer context (having them hear from customers directly is even better,) getting their feedback and hearing what their dependencies or concerns are, getting their ideas, agreeing on the criteria for prioritization of themes/efforts, etc. …And ensuring they are onboard before the final presentation of the roadmap.  Ideally, your development and operational leaders are standing beside you when presenting to the leadership team and show as much ownership over the roadmap as you do!  Yes, I have experienced this myself!

Understand ALL Your Critical Path Dependencies

Most product managers guess at their dependencies or don’t cover them all.  This is just a word to the wise.  Go through your draft roadmap with your major partners to get their input and understand what they’d have to do (development or otherwise) to ensure the initiatives can be successful in the timeframes you are expecting them to be.  As what their biggest concerns are or believe to be the biggest risks.  You’d be surprise at what you learn by going through your draft roadmap with your teams beyond just the dev team… support, operations, marketing, IT, etc.  We always think about it in terms of inputs, process, and outputs.  What are the input decisions, development, or partnerships required to begin the dev on any given initiative?  What is needed to actually develop the functionality; 3rd party software, partnerships, critical-path platform tech, etc?  And what needs to be released or ready by the time that functionality needs to be in market; partnership support teams, partnership technology or marketing, marketing technology, packaging, etc?  Think beyond mainline platform dependencies!

Ongoing Management

Once complete, we usually have a couple versions…one that’s all polished and summarized for the leadership team and one that is used for ongoing discussion as we learn more and have ongoing discussions with our core team.  We recommend reviewing the roadmap every month or two to ensure you’re managing the backlog accordingly and you’re communicating any major learning and associated pivots in the roadmap to the leadership team.  You can also use the roadmap as a tool in shiny object discussions.  “You want that shiny object added?  Are you willing to push this theme out X months for it?”  When you can have a discussion about the implications of a shiny object as it relates to a roadmap that the entire team helped build, you avoid opinion-based discussion and ensure you are doing what’s best for the customer and business.  It’s a much easier discussion.

Don’t have a clean process to take into account all these best practices?  We have a process framework that has worked for us. It’s a ratty ol’ powerpoint, but its a proven process that enables the most targeted, impactful, and committed roadmap.

Happy Roadmapping Season!!

 

 

Defining the PM job

We see this picture of PM  in the middle of UX, Tech and Business a lot:

From Mind The Product (https://www.mindtheproduct.com/2011/10/what-exactly-is-a-product-manager/)

We use this graphic as well – it’s been a nice, introductory way to speak at a high-level about the product management function, and it highlights the importance of partnering with these three important peer functions. Product management works with business leaders/marketing teams, engineering teams and UX teams. They sit in the middle often translating from one to the other. But we’ve found this picture hasn’t been sufficient to talk about what the actual day-day job of a product manager should be. When you introduce a graphic that describes the function as this small overlap of a venn diagram – it discounts the sheer amount of work and knowledge that’s required to actually do the job.

So, we came up with a new graphic:

 

This may not be the best drawn diagram, but we want to introduce it as a better way to talk about how a product manager should approach their job. We think this is far more representative of the actual  work that we all do on a year-round basis.

The outer circle goes to business. The product manager has to start with a broad and deep understanding and translating company vision, strategy and business objectives. These are the guardrails of our thinking – and we always need to go back to making sure that the decisions and tradeoffs we make are the right call for the business, industry and environment that we work in. We’ve seen lots of features go into products that customers ignore because they don’t make sense with what the business and the customer is trying to achieve.

The next inner circle is technology. This goes beyond partnering with the engineering or development team. The product manager doesn’t (often) code, but they (should) understand what the technology can/cannot do, understand the technical architecture and be able to ask the right questions, and have an engaged and knowledgeable discussion about alternatives. Without getting deep into the technology, the product manager is at the mercy of whatever technical recommendation is made. We’ve seen far too many product leaders and teams fail because they didn’t ask the right technical questions, because they weren’t prepared and didn’t dig deep enough. Technology is a core part of the job – better get used to getting into the details.

The core of the job is customer. Every part of the job is customer-driven. Whether that’s considering the product roadmap (what’s important to the customer), writing user stories (customer needs), doing customer research (talking to customers) – we could go on and on. Every single piece of work that’s produced is with the customer at heart. The product manager represents the customer at the table – they advocate for the customer, deeply understand their needs and ultimately make product decisions with the customer first, with the optimal technology and meeting business objectives.

When you look at product management this way – we believe you get a sense of how the pieces fit together and a better understanding of the expectations of the job. This isn’t a job for sissies!

Let us know what you think! We’d love to get your comments here, or send an email to vidya@productrebels.com and tell us how you see the PM job.

Persona Pitfalls

 

Okay, everyone says they know who their target customer is…Many even say they have personas.  Where does your team fit here?

Here are common pitfalls we see in most companies as they relate to effective personas (can you say “That’s us!” to any of these?):

  • Focused on demographics – age, location, occupation, etc.
  • It’s made up by an external vendor
  • Your team has a couple documented, your UX team has some, there’s one the research department created….point being there are a few and not all consistent.
  • Aren’t considered in day to day product decisions
  • Cost a lot of money for beautifully designed artifacts (designed to be displayed)
  • Lengthy (boring) descriptions or multi-page persona’s
  • Haven’t been updated since being created years ago.

Does any of this sound familiar?  It’s okay!  It’s normal.  We often don’t know how to build practical personas and understand how to use them on a day to day basis.

Here are some tips to apply tomorrow:

  • Try using a template that works.  Here’s one we’ve created (and have a whole workshop around.)  Contact us if you’d like to take our course.  Other templates work too, but make sure they aren’t exacerbating the problems mentioned above.
  • Focus on behaviors and attitudes that are relevant to the task/problem you are solving… leave demographics for last if at all.
  • Work with your broader team to finalize (don’t do this in a vacuum…include dev leaders, UX team, and research team members, if applicable.)
  • Find a picture that best represents that persona.  This will be the most memorable thing about the persona and what gets used most.  Make it a good one.  With a relevant background environment, facial expression, clothing, tools in hand, etc.  Check out a really great example of visually oriented personas
  • Post them up where everyone can see/utilize.  See examples of how some companies have done this.
  • Treat them like participants in a conversation when making product decisions…”Would [your persona’s name] actually find this valuable?  What’s the problem she/he is facing and what’s the context impacting the solution we build?”  Here is one example we use in our workshop that highlights a real world example of utilizing a persona in choosing a feature/design direction for an area of a small business software application.

You’d be surprised how many companies believe they have clear target customer definitions but when we poll the entire team (product managers, UX team, engineers, etc.) we get different definitions across the teams and different opinions about how/if those definitions are adhered to in decision making.  That makes getting product decisions made quickly and in a way that “stick” almost impossible.

Start by polling the team… are you all on the same page?

 

 

 

The Rebellion is here.

We thought we’d start with our story. We are two product leaders who are tired of seeing product managers struggle.Tired of watching YOU struggle to do the right thing. Tired of product managers being mistaken for project managers. Tired of you not having the support you deserve. Yes, we’re speaking to you – the product manager who’s smart, capable, driven – we know you. We know that you’re working way too many hours, juggling way too many tasks and catching everything that’s falling through the cracks. We are here to help.

We’re also speaking to the managers out there – those of you who have risen up the product ranks. We’re one of you. Being pulled in multiple directions. Working on a product that’s not growing and the team is looking to you. It’s time to go back to the fundamentals. We are here to help.

That’s what our Product Rebellion is all about. Our jobs are to wave that customer flag – every day. Join us.

We commit to giving you ideas, tools, examples that will help in your fight. Join us.

We want you. Your customers need you. Let’s get back to doing the jobs we must, and creating products that customers love.

Join us.

When all else fails – go talk to a customer.

Having a bad day? Got another twenty powerpoint revisions to make for that big meeting tomorrow? The one that seems to come around every 5 minutes… Well, here’s your first rebel challenge. Block two hours tomorrow (and if that’s really not possible, find a time next week). Put it in your calendar now (that’s right, open up your calendar and book it. We’ll wait). Now search through your customer logs and find a customer who’s given you feedback recently. It doesn’t matter if it’s praise, a complaint, or just a question. Send them an email to request a 15 minute discussion about your product. Now do that again two more times with two more customers. You just booked yourself time to talk to three real people about your product. Excited?

Now all you need to do is put this script into your calendar, and you’re all set:

Hi, I’m <name>, a product manager with <name of product>. I know that you recently used our product, and I’d really appreciate hearing a little about your experience. This won’t take more than 10-12 minutes of your time. I just have three questions:

  1. Can you tell me a little about why you chose the product, and is it meeting your expectations? (why, why not)
  2. What would you recommend about the product? (Why)
  3. If you could change one thing, what would it be? (Why)

Thanks so much for your time. Talking to customers is one of my favorite parts of the day, and I so appreciate your willingness to share your experience with me.

That’s it…go ahead and modify it whatever way you prefer. But if you don’t have time, you still have this waiting in your calendar, ready to go. No excuses! Go on product rebel, make a difference to a single customer, and maybe learn something that will make a big difference for you.