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The Best Product Management Content: Tips, Insights and Expert Interviews
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The Best Product Management Content: Tips, Insights and Expert Interviews

The Best Product Management Content: Tips, Insights and Expert Interviews

Building Great Products
July 27, 2021
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40 Jogs
Why it matters?

The best product management content is hard to find. There are many experts in the field, but it can be difficult knowing which ones you should listen to and which ones you should ignore. This list of content is from the most successful experts in the industry and will benefit existing product managers looking to improve their performance, or professionals looking to get a job in product management.

Types of content available

  • Building minimum lovable products
  • Being a great product leader
  • Must-have skills for any product manager
  • How to up-level your PM skills
  • Operating in a large enterprise versus a small business
  • Gathering, synthesizing and acting on customer feedback
  • Running product experimentation
  • Advice on KPIs to track
The Content

Each link contains a summary produced by one of Joggo's geniuses so you can decide where to spend your time learning more

April 11, 2020
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Ravi Mehta
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Ravi Mehta

Becoming A Peak Product Manager

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The Summary

There are 12 key skills each PM needs to master to become a peak product manager.

Product Execution

  • Feature Specification
    • PM needs to clearly communicate what the team needs to build and why
    • Doesn't need a lengthy spec doc but needs to communicate so team can execute
  • Product Delivery
    • Need to work with teams to turn specs into working products
    • Requires org skills, leadership savvy, attention to detail and adaptation
  • Quality Assurance
    • Poor quality is a slow and simmering issue that will push your customers away to competitors
    • Need to ensure quality products

Customer Insight

  • Fluency with Data
    • Need to dig behind the data to understand the "why" behind the data
    • Translate data into actionable learnings
  • Voice of the Customer
    • Talk to customers to understand what they need in a way that is not slow or costly
    • Can chat through multiple channels: casual conversation, customer support tickets, app reviews, etc.
  • User Experience Design
    • Emphasize interaction design as a critical phase of product development

Product Strategy

  • Business Outcome Ownership
    • PMs take responsibility for the business and understand the product's role in the business success
    • Provides team with information about why what they are doing is important
  • Product Vision & Roadmapping
    • Need to align how different features connect with each other
    • Determine when to adapt or stay the course
  • Strategic Impact
    • Develop products that are successful to the company and the customer
    • Use product to achieve company strategy

Influencing People

  • Stakeholder Management
    • Determine the best aspects of your team and rally everyone's support towards the vision
    • Willing to make the hard decisions and align everyone around them
  • Team Leadership
    • Need to operate as a coach
    • Give direct reports autonomy to succeed and not micro-managing
  • Managing Up
    • Garnering the support you need to accomplish your goals
    • Determine what your boss and leaders are trying to achieve and align work to those Use this skills framework to evaluate yourself, your teams and your hires
September 1, 2020
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Marty Cagan
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Silicon Valley Product Group

Discovery – Learning vs. Insights

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The Summary

Insight is learning that can be leveraged and optimized

  • Insight adds new perspective to the problem-solving approach
    • May be profound enough to change company strategy: vision pivot
  • Learning is the means, not the ends
    • Success = turning insight into solution for customers
    • Stay focused on solving the problem while learning valuable techniques
July 11, 2011
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Andrew Chen
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Andrew Chen

Don’t compete on features

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The Summary

Adding features to a product adds more power to the product, yet at the same time adds complexity that makes it hard for new users to even get started. Create a product that competes because it’s taking a fundamentally different position in the market. 

Know Your Market

  • If the market is full of complex enterprise tools, then make a simpler product aimed at individuals. 
  • If the market is made up of fancy, high-end wines, then create one that’s cheaper, younger, and more casual. 
  • If the market is full of long-form text blogging tools, then make one that makes it easy to communicate in 140 character bursts. 
  • If computers are techy and cheap, then make one that’s human and more premium. 

Ramifications for startups building initial versions of a product

  • Don’t compete on features
  • If your product initially doesn’t find a fit in the market (as is common), don’t react by adding additional new features to “fix” the problem.
  • Make sure your product reflects the market positioning
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First Round Review

How to Engage Your Users to Build the Product They Actually Want

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The Summary

Massdrop Model for Engaging Customers

  • Launched in 2012 to help people get lower prices through bulk-buying
  • Company outlook has been hugely influenced by customer feedback

Fielding Ideas Mindfully

  • Massdrop eased communication with users.
    • Collected email addresses on users who voted for a particular product to be put in stock
    • Created a secure system to vote on products

Over-communicating Efficiently

  • Massdrop founder set clear expectations for Massdrop to his team.
  • The company recognizes 10 to 15 active “hero” users and asks them for suggestions to improve

Making Sacrifices to Build Trust

  • In order to satisfy vendors with privacy concerns, Massdrop created some disgruntled customers. Signups rebounded when the company explained the situation to its hero users.
  • By developing a “commit to buy” feature, Massdrop was able to guarantee customers’ discount spots on a product.
  • Showing early customers that you value their input, and giving them credit for their contribution is essential to success.
August 19, 2018
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Brandon Chu
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Black Box Of Product Management

Product Management Mental Models for Everyone

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The Summary

Various mental models to think about when creating a product as a product manager. Use these models as a checklist rather than a methodology. Experience will help accumulate more models.

Where to Invest Models

  1. Return on investment
    1. For every dollar invested, how much is coming back 
    2. Helps to compare multiple projects and pick one that maximizes impact for customers
  2. Time value of shipping
    1. Product shipped earlier is worth more than products shipped later
    2. Helps to pick projects that can be finished quicker
  3. Time horizon
    1. The right investment decision depends on the time period in mind
    2. Decisions change for next 3 months vs. 3 years
  4. Expected value
    1. Probability-weighted sum of outcomes
    2. Helps understand return on investment

Designing and Scoping Models

  1. Working backwards
    1. Start at a perfect solution and work backwards to get a product
    2. Helps keep focus on the long term
  2. Confidence determines speed vs quality
    1. Speed vs. quality is a tradeoff
    2. More confidence in the product means take time and don’t take shortcuts
    3. Less confidence means move quicker and improve later
  3. Solve the whole customer experience
    1. Understand customers’ needs before and after the product is used
    2. Helps understand the bigger picture of customer needs
  4. Experiment, feature, platform
    1. These 3 features have a tradeoff of speed and quality
    2. Helps understand objectives of product
  5. Feedback loops
    1. Cause and effect in products help iterate
    2. Helps understand negative or positive changes and how to resolve them
  6. Flywheel
    1. Negative and positive feedback loops feeding on themselves
    2. Helps to create a self-sustaining product
  7. Diminishing returns
    1. Over time, efforts will have less impact on a product
    2. Helps understand when it’s time to move onto a new product
  8. Local maxima
    1. Point where improvements don’t create customer value
    2. Helps to understand its time to innovate and not iterate
  9. Version two is a lie
    1. Make the first product a complete product
    2. Helps not plan for a future that might not happen
  10. Freeroll
    1. A situation where there is little to lose and a lot to gain by moving fast
    2. Helps take advantage of a situation based on intuition
  11. Most value is created after version one
    1. Learning happens the most after launch
    2. Helps test hypothesis and iterate a product
  12. Key failure indicator (KFI)
    1. Metrics of failure paired with metrics for success (KPIs) help keep focus on healthy growth
    2. Help keep performance in check
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First Round Review

Amazon‚ Friction-Killing Tactics To Make Products More Seamless

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The Summary

There are 3 main causes of product friction

  1. Unfamiliarity
    1. The customer doesn’t know how to use a new product
  2. Design
    1. The product intentionally has a learning curve
  3. Misalignment with human behavior
    1. Product fails to anticipate how the consumer will use the product.

Understand the stages of the customer’s journey to remove friction

  1. Before first contact and a customer is unaware of the product’s existence
  2. After getting them to sign up and complete one meaningful task
  3. Impress them at the first moment of delight to convert them into a fanatical customer

Listen to the customer to understand human behavior

  1. Monitor customers’ natural habitat
    1. Many tools allow companies to monitor customers in-app, but you can also conduct field research by shadowing customers
  2. Mentions and Reviews
    1. Feedback can be explicit, like app reviews or social media mentions, but it can also be drawn out of data. Atypical trends in usage metrics, high frequency actions, and recurring patterns can all be useful.
  3. Study the Industry Standard to find the expectation from existing products and example larger industry-wide trends

Eliminating friction to create the path of least resistance

  1. Reduce customer anxiety about something new and minimize decision-making requirements
  2. Remove avoidable steps to complete tasks – simplify or preselect when possible
  3. Mitigate context switching (navigating away from product/service) as much as possible If friction is unavoidable, try to mask it (e.g. hide a loading screen with a welcome message). You might also want to add friction intentionally at certain stages to produce later benefits.
October 1, 2018
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Sachin Rekhi
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Sachin Rekhi

The Art of Being Compelling as a Product Manager

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The Summary

The substance in product management (PM) is the hard skills needed to learn and excel at building great products (i.e. customer discovery). Style is the soft skills needed to get things done (i.e. influence without authority). Most product managers tend to undermine the importance of style. How can managers learn to improve?

Be Compelling

Most of the soft skills associated with PM involve making a compelling argument to the stakeholders. How?

Framing

Present a particular perspective to steer the audience to the desired conclusion.

Social Proof

Leverage the shared opinion of others to convince key stakeholders.

Goal Seek

Redefine your initiative in terms of a decision maker's own goals.

Inception

Make another believe the idea was their own.

Citation

Summarize first-party research succinctly. Surfacing too much data will dilute the argument.

Narration

Recast your argument as an engaging story.

December 30, 2018
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Hari Vinod
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Medium

Making Your Product A Habit: The Hook Framework

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The Summary

The Hook Model is a process for businesses to form habits around products. It seeks to connect users’ problems to a solution with enough frequency to make it habitual. It has 4 phases: 1. Trigger (external or internal) --> cue an action (e.g. paid advertisements or emotions) 2. Action --> behavior in anticipation of reward (driven by Fogg behavior Model) 3. Variable Reward --> reinforces user motivation for previous action 4. Investment --> users invest time and effort in anticipation of future rewards

Five fundamental questions for building effective hooks:

  1. Internal trigger - what do users really want?
  2. External trigger - what brings users to your service?
  3. Action - what is the simplest action users take in anticipation of rewards?
  4. Variable reward - are users fulfilled by the reward yet left wanting more?
  5. Investment - what do users invest in your product & does it load the next trigger/store value?

The Manipulation Matrix

A decision support tool for before the product is finalized. Facilitators have the highest chance of success for their product; dealers have the lowest. - Facilitators use their product and believe it can materially improve lives. - Peddlers believe their product can improve lives but do not use it themselves. - Entertainers use their product but do not believe it improves lives. - Dealers neither use the product nor believe it can improve lives.

Habit Testing

Provides insight to the design of habit-forming products. It has 3 steps: 1. Identify how people are using the product. 2. Codify findings in search of habitual users. 3. Modify product to influence more users to become habitual. Reevaluate and continue to modify as needed.

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Nate Munger
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Intercom

Customer scrutiny leads to better products

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The Summary

Talking to users and potential customers is a great way to focus on PMF. What type of conversations reveals growth opportunities?

Scrutiny

  • Customers that challenge your knowledge of your product's use cases.
  • If your company is tech-focused, talk to a customer whose market is outside the tech world.

Conversations that Question Your Limitations

  • Customers ask "What are your product's limitations?"
  • Be clear about the limitations
  • These conversations eventually lead you to a point where you are unsure what your product's limits are.
  • Gives you an area you should research more on

Conversations Where Customers Teach You About Your Product

E.g. When Intercom released its APIs, Unbounce (its customer) built a Zendesk widget that extended Intercom's functionality. This taught Intercom more about how their product could be used.

November 10, 2020
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Lenny Rachitsky
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Lenny's Newsletter

Startup PM vs. Big company PM

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The Summary

Similarities between Startup and Big Company PM

  • You will be building a product with cross-functional resources
  • You will need to get buy-in for your ideas
  • You need to keep people aligned / excited
  • You are still focused on consumers' problems

Differences between Startup and Big Company PM

  • Focused in all parts of the business (startup) vs. one part of the business (big company)
  • Obsess over growing the company (startup) vs. growing your team's KPIs (big company)
  • Most time spend talking (startup) vs. most time spent writing (big company)
  • Decisions based on gut (startup) vs. decisions based on data (big company)
  • Become a jack/jane-of-all-trades (startup) vs. world-expert in one problem (big company)

Recommendations for Transitioning from Startup to Big Company

  • Communication skills - Will need to become an expert in emails, docs, meetings, presentations and storytelling across many different types of people
  • Influence - Will need to inspire your team to do their best work. Will need to develop and build team culture.
  • Data - Will need to begin using data to drive decisions
September 17, 2018
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Robbie Allan
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Intercom

5 essential onboarding tactics for complex products

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The Summary

Provide Immediate Utility

  • Many complex products require high-consequence actions for new users.
    • e.g. Onboarding a user's team or installing software
  • Find ways to demonstrate how your product will deliver on its promise.
    • e.g. Airbnb makes benefits tangible by showing prospective hosts an estimate of how much they can earn.

Organize Your Flow Based On Value, Not Technology

  • Do not create a tour of every feature of your product.
  • Base your product tour on the problems it solves.

Motivate Users Through the Process by Linking Tasks to Benefits

e.g. LinkedIn keeps their job database current by encouraging users to "strengthen [their] profile" so "people can connect with [them]."

Reassure and Come Back to High-Anxiety Tasks

  • Requiring users to invite their colleagues to use the app causes anxiety.
    • Let users know that it's okay to skip the task.

Guide Customers Through Non-Product Tasks

  • Guide users through non-button-clicking tasks.
    • e.g. Providing a QA checklist for installing a website widget.
November 13, 2013
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Scott Belsky
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Medium

The First 15 Seconds

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The Summary

In the first 15 seconds of every new experience, people are lazy, vain, and selfish. We are lazy in the sense that we don’t want to invest time and energy to unwrap and understand what something is. No patience to read directions. What pulls us past our laziness, vanity, and selfishness is “the hook.”

The Hook

  • Pull new people through their initial skepticism and indifference with a hook. Most often, the hook is an abstraction layer of the value beneath.
  • An effective hook appeals to short term interests that are connected to a long term promise. 
  • Don’t think you’re above needing a Hook. Nobody is.  We all need a Hook to pull us beyond our primal and inescapable tendencies.
February 9, 2021
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Jackie Bavaro
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Becoming a senior Product Manager

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The Summary

Differentiators of senior product managers

Strategy - Develops a strategy for customer and business success - Prioritizes work based on its role in a product’s long-term vision - Three parts to a strategy include: vision, strategic framework, and roadmap Autonomy - Organizes a team independently - Earns trust to work independently through proactive communication and a good track record Nuance - Able to work through ambiguous situations by managing tradeoffs - Engages in constructive discussions with leaders to explain nuanced decisions

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First Round Review
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First Round Review

Don't Serve Burnt Pizza (And Other Lessons in Building Minimum Lovable Products)

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The Summary

If startups want to build products that stand out from the competition, it is essential that they raise the bar from viable to lovable. Products are no longer the “first of their kinds” and stiffer competition means that MVPs aren’t going to cut anymore. Playbook for building and delivering an MLP:

Start with the user’s why, not the business why

  • Product managers should aim their efforts toward creating a product that solves a “why” for the customer, rather than a “why” for the business
  • Don’t ask: Wouldn’t it be amazing if this product could help Airbnb compete with luxury hotels?
  • Instead ask_: Wouldn’t it be amazing if users had a variety of high-quality options that made their precious vacation time even more special?_

Separate the problem space from the solution space

  • Detach yourself from what you think your users need and pay heed to what they are actually experiencing
  • Never start with a solution

Listen to your users – but don’t take their word as gospel

  • Listen to users carefully but not literally
  • Common mistakes teams tend to make when conducting interviews
    • Asking customers what they want: users tend to talk about solutions that cater to their needs specifically, and taking them too literally limits the scope of ideation
    • Positioning yourself as the voice of authority
      • You are not the expert on the problem, the user is
      • If that dynamic is not made clear, it will be difficult to discover what the user truly care about
  • It’s hard to build a product that satisfies several different user types 1. Focus on one user type, and make sure to ask open-ended questions to ensure you’re getting the right data

Enter the solution space and choose your game

  • Diverge first to understand the problem space.
    • Converge on the most important problem.
    • Diverge again to come up with solutions.
    • Converge on the solution that’s both usable and lovable.
  • To distinguish between a viable solution and a lovable solution, listen for your users' reactions.

Strike the balance of minimum and lovable

  • Zero in on just one or two features that truly bring value and delight to the user
  • Understand your users in context

Embrace your user misbehavior

Be observant about how a user interacts with your product. When a user behaves against your expectations, they might just be leading you toward what they find most lovable

Putting the MLP to the Test

Implement a gradual, structured framework for testing by mining for insights from your beta before rushing into the GA release

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First Round Review

How Dropbox Sources, Scales and Ships Its Best Product Ideas

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The Summary

Dropbox's head of product engineering, Tido Carriero, shares tips to build a hybrid product development process and the actions young companies can take to navigate it well.

Aim for a hybrid approach to product development

  • When you're early-stage, begin with bottom-up development.
  • Shift to a top-down approach when projects are step-changes.
  • Drive toward a hybrid development approach as soon as possible.

Embrace dualities to keep your balance

  • Use a combination of lightweight and heavyweight product reviews.
  • Categorize each potential product as either a seed or sapling. Doing so will help you allocate funds, time and expertise towards these products more effectively.
  • Set up a board of directors to oversee project groups. Consistent oversight from a consistent set of leaders at the company is really useful in scaling up projects.

Constantly hack your hack week

  • Commit to a full hack week every year.
  • Experiment with themes for hack weeks.
  • Think Olympics, not summer camp.
  • Hack to the future.

Every idea is an investment

  • Idea. Hypothesis. Prototype. Product.
  • Make it very clear which metrics and results you plan to see at each stage of an idea's growth.
  • Set expectations so it's clear to everyone which 'investments' receive 'funding' and why.
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First Round Review

How to Craft Your Product Team at Every Stage, From Pre-Product/Market Fit to Hypergrowth 

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The Summary

Founders need to craft a product team that matches the phase of their company. The three phases of a company are the “drunken walk”, product/market fit, and hypergrowth. 

Phase 1: Taking the “Drunken Walk”

  • This stage is fast failing, and the company’s heading is unknown 
  • The role of product vs. the role of the founders:
    • Product management is essentially project management 
    • It’s about scrappy experiments and supporting roles 
  • Mistakes that are easy to make:
    • Product is too early to market 
    • Product is too late to market 
  • Who to hire:
    • Probe if a project manager has the capacity for more scaling 
    • Listen to candidates if they say they are ready to temporarily get their hands dirty to jumpstart initial growth 

Phase 2: Reaching Product/Market Fit

  • This stage is full steam ahead with no time to rock the boat
  • The value the product brings to the user is higher than the price the consumer pays for the product 
  • There has to be a degree of profitability and sustainability when acquiring customer’s love 
  • The role of product vs. the role of the founders:
    • Your planning horizon will shift from weeks to months as customer needs come into focus
    • You start to establish more advanced communication rituals beyond weekly standups 
  • Mistakes that are easy to make:
    • Ignoring optimization of the depth and quality of the product once it starts to be successful 
  • Who to hire:
    • An experienced PM who can set goals and build the right communication habits with the right people at the table 
    • People who can introduce the optimal level of structure 

Phase 3: Kicking Into Hypergrowth

  • Scale your core business while expanding your offerings simultaneously
  • Your product is working well and you’re asking “what’s next?”
  • The role of product vs. the role of the founders:
    • Product management truly becomes a strategic function 
    • The company needs to be disciplined when it innovates 
  • Mistakes that are easy to make:
    • Neglecting the core business 
    • Not strengthening cross-functional teams, processes, and foundations 
    • Not creating a more structured culture 
    • Losing visibility as the CPO
  • Who to hire:
    • Entrepreneurs at scale with experiences at companies of different sizes
    • Raise the minimal quality standards and develop internal talent
    • Listen to your team and discuss new diverse candidates instead of outright cold recruiting 

In Summary

  • Correctly size the product team for the challenges the company faces
  • Add value through people and collaboration
February 23, 2020
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Sachin Rekhi
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Sachin Rekhi

5 Skills Every Product Manager Can Learn From Elon Musk

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The Summary

Elon Musk is a prolific innovator and leader, but many of the traits that make him successful can be applied to the role of a Product Manager to have improved results.

5 Skills Product Managers Can Learn From Elon Musk

  • Never stop learning
    • This creates a wide base of knowledge to draw when approaching new tasks. 
  • Invest in inter-disciplinary skills
    • Product Management is inter-disciplinary, and more skills leads to an ability to go deep in more areas.
  • Have a compelling vision
    • This inspires your team and gives the work meaning.
  • Always sell that vision
    • Get everyone you work with to buy into the goals that need to be accomplished.
  • Be design oriented
    • Design skill produces for innovative solutions.
March 21, 2019
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Maciej Lipiec
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Beyond the Double Diamond: thinking about a better design process model

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The Summary

Double Diamond is a design process model made up of four phases

  1. Discover (insight into the problem)
  2. Define (the area to focus on)
  3. Develop (potential solutions)
  4. Deliver (solutions that work) The Double Diamond emphasizes “divergent” and “convergent thinking” – many ideas are created and refined down to the best idea.

Problems with the Double Diamond

  • Many designers work with an end solution in mind
  • Written “documents of vision” are not good catalysts for design
  • Emphasizes design brief too much over design concept
  • “Big research up-front” is not applicable to all design projects

Instead, designers should follow “The Three Triangles Process”

  1. Discovery
  2. Ideation
  3. Delivery Discovery and Ideation stages work together as Discovery consists of research and analysis of data while Ideation includes drawing up different solutions. They form the milestone, The Concept, which is the prototype of the idea, before it gets sent to the last stage, Delivery, which prepares the product for the market.
July 14, 2017
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Nate Munger
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Intercom

You are not in the bridge building business

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The Summary

Dangers of "yes" mentality with customers

  • Metrics to obsess over are growth and churn
  • Despite this, you cannot say yes to every customer request as it is a slippery slope with implications for customer-facing team, product development decisions, feedback loops and engineering bandwidth

Customer requests

  • Discounts, refunds, pricing, extended trials, feature access - easy calls. Bartering is part of the process.
  • Missing or yet-to-be-finished features - be honest with customers and determine when to say "no"
  • One-time technical workarounds - saying "yes" here sets a precedent that your company will build temporary solutions to larger problems
  • Being honest with your customers can actually strengthen customer relationships and improve your product in the long run
October 25, 2016
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Sachin Rekhi
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Sachin Rekhi

Designing Your Product's Continuous Feedback Loop

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The Summary

Continuous feedback

A continuous process in improving a product. - Feedback comes from various sources and has pros and cons: - Detailed, long customer interviews - Scalable customer surveys - Customer support constantly sees pain points - Data on success from customer metrics - Feedback forums promote open discussion Sales - Employee feedback - Social media is great for customer engagement - Customer success: great source for identifying large adoption rates - Churn surveys

Establish a feedback river

Open channels to view and continuous feedback - Gmail, Outlook, Slack, HipChat - Open to everyone, including PMs, R&D, marketing, sales, and customer service - Broad transparency outweighs high potential of clutter

Establish a feedback system of record:

Consolidate large volume of feedback in succinct, organized, efficient manner - Format: 1) description, 2) product category, 3) names of requestors - Captured via - Spreadsheets (Google Sheets, Microsoft Excel) - Project management tool (JIRA, Asana, Trello), - Product roadmap tool (Aha.io, Wizeline) - Needs to be succinct, organized, and well-managed

Incorporating feedback

  • Discussions should be data-driven and made regular
  • Don’t just prioritize features most commonly asked by customers without also analyzing overall strategies and findings
August 22, 2017
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Sinéad Cochrane
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Intercom

Building empathy in a product team

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The Summary

Building empathy with customers is important.

What is empathy?

Empathy the ability to share & feel another's emotions. Three parts: 1. Perspective taking: put yourself in someone else's shoes 2. Non-judgmental: it doesn't matter what caused the problem, only that you can offer a solution 3. Recognizing emotions: realize the emotional impact the problem is having on the person Having a good understanding of your customer & their problems is the responsibility of everyone contributing to the product.

Building empathy with your customers through research

Observing research can have a positive impact within engineering teams. Impact on Messenger team was huge: 1. Motivated team towards a common goal 2. Built empathy 3. Shared understanding of insights across all disciplines 4. Built confidence

Create opportunities to build empathy

  • Consume customer insights
  • Map the customer experience
  • Perspective taking
  • Provide customer support
  • Become a customer
  • Always be curious All of these activities should be considered work. It is your responsibility as a product builder to create these opportunities for yourself.
March 4, 2013
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Sachin Rekhi
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Sachin Rekhi

How Am I Going To Move My Product Forward Today?

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The Summary

Broad roles for product managers

  • Responsibilities are diverse:
    • Interviewing customers
    • Triaging bugs
    • Reviewing designs
    • Brainstorming improvements
  • It is easy to become overwhelmed
  • Deciding how to prioritize time is hard

Simple technique for prioritization

  1. How will I move my product forward today?
    1. Top 3-5 things to accomplish
    2. Think about how impact each item will have You'll begin to notice:

Time estimation skills need improving

  • Setting goals for the day will force you to estimate time for each task
    • This is a notoriously bad skill at tech firms
  • Allows you to assess how to act differently the next day

Relative importance

  • You will be able to assess whether you're working on the most important items
  • you will start to think more critically about your choices of work

Unaccomplished tasks

  • Will give you a chance to re-evaluate why tasks weren't accomplished and what got in the way
August 28, 2020
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Brett Bivens
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Venture Desktop

The Rise of Product-Led Growth

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The Summary

Bottom Line

  • There is still a lot of time for product-led growth (PLG) companies to continue to grow at a rapid pace

Bottom Up Tailwinds

  • The blurring distinction between enterprise and consumer products coupled with exploding demand has created the conditions for cloud native PLG companies to flourish
  • PLG companies grow faster and more efficiently, with higher margins and stronger retention.

Questions to Consider About PLG

  • What factors led to a lot of PLG being done outside the US?
  • Which incumbents will shift their strategies around PLG principles?
  • How will PLG be funded?
  • Will PLG companies leverage the SPAC model?
  • How much growth will be unlocked with payments in the platforms?
  • Is community-led growth the new PLG?

Case Study: Rise of Twilio

  • Twilio delivered on simplicity and scalability which is core to PLG companies
  • Twilio focused on delivering simplicity to the developer community
  • Other key examples include: Shopify, Datadog, Fastly, Stripe, Dropbox, Zendesk, Zoho, Notion
February 18, 2020
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Lenny Rachitsky
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Lenny's Newsletter

Balancing outcome-thinking with design and technical requirements

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The Summary

Being an outcome-thinking team means that work is prioritized, and teams are structured around the outcomes that the company wants to achieve. A strong correlation was evident between those outcome-oriented teams and teams that drove significant impact. To find that balance between outcome-thinking and engineering needs you simply need to think further out into the future: 1. How much would this work benefit your outcome 1+ years out? 2. What happens if you don’t do it? 3. What are the chances of it being successful? Finding this balance can is never an easy call, but it’s normal.

December 1, 2020
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Lenny Rachitsky
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Lenny's Newsletter

When NOT to run an experiment

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The Summary

At a large company, every change can be an experiment. At startups with little data, the opposite is true.

Why run an experiment?

  1. Learning: experiments help you learn about your users
  2. Deciding: learn if the change had the intended consequence
  3. Avoiding: catch unintended consequences
  4. Quantifying: the impact of your changes
  5. Aligning: settle subjective debates

What are the downsides to running an experiment?

  1. Time: experiments take time to set up & run
  2. False confidence: can create false confidence based on misinterpreted results
  3. Short-term thinking: they can push you to think short-term
  4. Narrow thinking: they disincentivize taking bets that are hard to measure
  5. Bad product: they can introduce awkward UX or legal risk

When to not run an experiment?

  1. It'll take too long to get actionable results:
    1. Is it worth the time until you get conclusive results?
  2. The downside risk of the change is low & effort is high
    1. What if you instead invested the time into a better experimentation framework?
  3. You're launching something completely new
    1. No control group with a new product!
May 26, 2017
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John Collins
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Intercom

Product feedback you should ignore

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The Summary

Aspirational Statements

  • What people say they want is dependent on their context and the solutions they can envisage.
  • E.g. Customers complained to Eurostar that their train journeys took too long, so Eurostar took billions of dollars to reduce the journey times.
  • Instead, Eurostar could have increased enjoyability on the train so passengers won't mind the long journey.

Hypothetical or Espoused Behavior

  • People like to predict behavior.
  • E.g. Customers will tell you they'll upgrade if you add one more thing.

Third-Party Statements

  • Non-customers guessing the behavior of someone they know.
  • E.g. "I would not buy this, but I know my boss will."
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First Round Review

I'm Sorry, But Agile Won't Fix Your Products 

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The Summary

Agile methodology alone will not make a strong product manager / developer or product.

Most important agile tenant:

  • The best architectures, requirements, and designs emerge from self-organizing teams.
  • SCRUM is then used to monitor the teams, not a top-down management tool.
  • Market leaders (e.g., Spotify, Yammer, Holacracy) allow teams to decide what and how to build instead of pushing work to individuals.

Steps to begin to implement these new models:

  1. Determine a project
  2. Put together a small team
  3. Give a problem and empower them to solve it You know it’s working because your team will be coming up with more new ideas and getting those ideas in front of your customers faster than before. Need to determine how to scale it. Beyond Agile, this process distributes authority and allows customers, partners and employees to own the process not just management.
December 16, 2011
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Adam Nash
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Psychohistory

Be a Great Product Leader

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The Summary

A strong product leader can help a cross-functional team of great technologies and designers work efficiently. They make things happen. The three responsibilities of a product manager are:

Product Strategy

  • What game are we playing and how do we keep scores?
  • It is important to clearly describe the game being played and the metrics used to analyze success
  • The results: aligned effort, better motivation, innovative ideas, and products that move the needle.

Prioritization

  • Involves ensuring that their initial work on their strategy and metrics is carried through to the phasing of projects
  • Phasing is crucial
    • Determining which ideas should be executed first 

Execution

  • Product specification
    • Clarity on what you’re building
  • Edge case decisions
    • Triaging decisions on complicated cases
  • Project management
    • Staying ahead of the game to avoid issues
  • Analytics
    • Running the numbers
September 16, 2013
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Sachin Rekhi
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Sachin Rekhi

3 Reasons Better Products Don't Always Win

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The Summary

A product that is better than the established players in market doesn't always win the market. Three reasons why:

The Cost of Switching

  • Learning how to use a new product or moving your data over takes time people don't necessarily have
  • Users have very little incentive to try a new solution to a problem they think they have already solved
  • Succeed by building a product 10x better than the existing solution

Distribution

  • Even if your product is 10x better, you can't win unless your distribution strategy is cost-effective and scalable
  • Succeed by crafting your distribution strategy early on alongside your product strategy

Network Effects

  • Incumbents benefit the most from network efforts, making it difficult for new products to penetrate these markets
  • Succeed by creating single player value as well as ramping distribution early to build your own network effects
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Andrea Saez
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ProdPad

How To Build A Product Roadmap Everyone Understands

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The Summary

A product roadmap should be so clearly designed that teams put it at the center of product decisions, and companies put it at the center of their business decisions. It should be visual, accessible and clear enough for anyone to scan through and understand what’s going on. It should communicate problems that need to be solved and opens up the conversation on how to solve them.

Benefits of a Theme-based Product Roadmap

  • Fewer meetings
  • Healthy team debates
  • Able to make product decisions everyone understands

Columns in a Theme-based Product Roadmap

  • Now:
    • Stuff that you are currently working on.
  • Next:
    • Stuff that’s coming up soon.
  • Later:
    • Stuff that you’d like to work on in the future, but need to do a bit more research before you move on. Ensure that you define initiatives for your roadmap to tackle the root of the problem with a single, elegant solution.  Build the case for each initiative to help strengthen what you’re putting on the roadmap. This will help your team have access to detailed information such as ideas, customer feedback and user stories. Finally, assemble these initiatives into a product strategy by color coding and tagging to allow the viewer to sort through and filter down based on a particular interest.
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First Round Review

Slack's First Product Manager on How to Make a Firehose of Feedback Useful

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The Summary

Tips for sifting through massive amounts of qualitative and quantitative data

Pursue goals, not numbers

  • Focus narrowly and doggedly on your company’s top-line goals (everyone needs to know why they're doing what they’re doing)
  • Regularly revise your goals
  • Be consistent about sharing your priorities internally

Smarter hypotheses yield smarter insights

  • Remain aware of the big picture, and know when to adjust your theory accordingly.

Know your biases to keep them in check

  • Biases are unavoidable, so be explicit about how you’ll control the most common sources of bias (Selection Bias, Confirmation or observer bias, Reporting bias)

Combining qualitative and quantitative data

  • Quantitative data can tell you if something is wrong, and qualitative can tell you why. Combine both data types to get a better understanding.

Gather the right data

  • Getting actionable qualitative data is often a matter of going out and finding it.
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First Round Review

The Recursive Product Strategy That Musk Used To Build An Empire  

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The Summary

Recursive product strategy can be the first step in building for a long term success.

Civic as an example:

  • End goal: To enable a delegated democracy at scale. But there is no legal ability or cultural familiarity to do that now.
  • Stage 4: To fix the "person-not-present" challenge of those not voting in-person. It needs government endorsement. Agencies can't verify identities of people on the other end.
  • Stage 3: To build a product that securely verifies the identities. But no one has successfully built this yet.
  • Stage 2: To create the largest network of personal identification data. The time is now!
  • Stage 1: To offer a free product to protect personal identification information.

Four step framework to apply the recursive product strategy:

  1. Find a big market to dent. Yola was a failure since the market is crowded with only $1bn in total size. Gyft competes in $125bn industry.
  2. Swing a wedge to make a ding before a dent: The wedge helps to break in and maintain the edge.
  3. Look to adjacent markets to place your first swing: Gyft designed digital wallet to be integrated online or at every POS to let more customers swing the wedge for them.
  4. Each swing must reward customers and partners.
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First Round Review

To Build Great Products, Build This Strong, Scalable System First

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The Summary

The most important changes in your product

  • As you have achieved product market-fit, more customers with different needs, wants and opinions about your product arise.
  • More customers are available to correlate product tweaks with behavior.

Brainstorm

  • Three major areas of product development change as a company matures: how ideas are generated, how they are executed, and how you iterate on the ideas.
  • Create a system for how you make hypotheses, make a list of expected outcomes, the target metrics and how much growth and engagement you want to see.

Modular Execution

  • For this transition to be smooth, it requires the CEO to cede some control.
  • They go from designing the product to designing the organization.
  • Creating teams around themes makes it clear who is responsible and accountable for different parts of the product.

Impact of product OPS

How to put product ops on the rails without overdoing it: - Pick only a couple hard-and-fast rules - Provide autonomy between guard rails - Be clear about the role of product ops - Just start

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Jocelyn Goldfein
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First Round Review

The Right Way to Ship Software  

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The Summary

There is no universal method to ship software. Different methodologies optimize for different goals, and all of them have downsides.

First, Take a Look at Who the Customer Is

  • Expensive software means predictability is key while shipping. Customers need your product.
  • A lower (or no) price tag means that you should focus on UX. Users who don't need your product have to want it.

Next, Assess How You Deploy and How Much You're Willing to Risk

  • Your deployment model affects your release tradeoffs.
    • Deploying in the cloud gives you total control over the runtime environment of your software.
    • Deploying onto a customer's device means the once and future cost of doing a release is radically higher.
  • Your deployment model also affects risk.
    • A consumer business can afford a lot more risk than an enterprise software business.
    • The speed at which you fix your mistakes can be as important as how bad the mistake was in the first place.

How You Ship is One Strand of Your Cultural DNA

  • How you ship is not just process, it's culture and identity. Swapping out a process is easy. Changing culture is hard.
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First Round Review

Defining Product Design: A Dispatch from Airbnb's Design Chief

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The Summary

Weak marketing and education for design roles

  • Brand and marketing design is easier than product design.
  • A broader understanding of design functions will help designers to be more involved.

Nonstandard organizational structure

  • Structuring design teams in a relatively uniform way will foster design culture and career paths.

Role models

  • Few recognizable figures exist in design.
  • A function becomes more expansive as it produces role models and aspirational leaders.

Fuse engineering, product and design from the start.

  • Hire and unleash a design lead from the start.
  • Grow design’s headcount in step with engineering product hires.

Carve out career paths for Individual Contributors (ICs)

  • Level titles across teams
  • Promote ICs to the highest level without making them managers.

Improve the following

  • Retention of designers
  • Concurrent cohort growth
  • Mobility

Surface new tools and establish a vernacular

  • Designers need to experiment with their tools in order to construct something and achieve synchronization with tools.
  • Common language across the industry could go a long way to formalizing a design profession. 
December 30, 2019
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Brianne Kimmel
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WFH

How Superhuman uses video game design to make work feel more like a game

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The Summary

Rahul Vohra’s Superhuman integrates video game design into an email client to improve user productivity.

Integrating video game and online entertainment concepts is a rising trend for online platforms

  • The gaming industry is growing quickly, eclipsing Hollywood in size.
  • As funds pour in, gaming startups are increasing in number.
  • Stigma around gaming is disappearing, and gaming communities are growing in size.

How game-like features improve online experience

  • Inbox zero - Superhuman studied the behavior and emotion of users interacting with their inbox to eliminate stress, with the goal of “inbox zero”
  • Keyboard shortcuts - Superhuman is helping users interact with their software effortlessly to remove distractions and improve productivity.
  • Training - Superhuman has “controls” like a game, and so there are cheat sheets and even human assistants to help you learn and maximize productivity.
  • Speed - As users are immersed in the experience, and controls are learned, productivity will increase.
August 25, 2020
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Lenny Rachitsky
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Lenny's Newsletter

How to increase your product's retention

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The Summary

In Business, there is always room for growth, especially for product retention.

Strategies to Improve Product Retention

  1. Improve Your Product
    1. By delivering more value, more customers will regularly use your product.
  2. Improve Your Onboarding
    1. The more users know about your product, the more users that your product will have
  3. Make It Stickier
    1. Make your product so valuable that users will not give it up.
  4. Catch Users Before They Leave
    1. Give users a reason to stay 
  5. Remind Users of Your Value
    1. Constantly show users what is valuable about your product.
  6. Bring Back Users After They’ve Gone
    1. Demonstrate the value that past users are missing out on
  7. Change Your Users
    1. Target the best audience for your product
September 24, 2019
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Lenny Rachitsky
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Lenny's Newsletter

Advice on growth, product, and leadership

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The Summary

Advice on Managing Up

  • Over-communicate your work and plans
  • Set clear expectations
  • Share the trade-offs when plans change
  • Prioritize your work and communicate changes in prioritization
  • Do great work and gain trust

Work for PM's Extra Time

  • Think through execution and development of the strategy, and the vision of your team and determine any gaps in understanding
  • Communicate and listen more

Types of Product Differentiation

  • Price
  • Quality
  • Customer service and experience
  • Supply chain
  • Brand (e.g., story, celebrity endorsement)
  • Geographically local
  • Personalization
  • A combination of some of the above or choose not to differentiate and scale quicker than competitors
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Brian Donohue
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Intercom

Why product teams work best without a single leader

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The Summary

Counterintuitively, product teams work best without a single leader.

Diffusion of Responsibility

  • When in groups, people often do nothing because the responsibility is not solely on them.
  • Your best chance of getting things done is having one person ultimately responsible for it.

Product teams work best without a single leader

  • Leadership is a partnership between PM and EM, and the designer as well
  • Either the team succeeds, or no one does
  • Product teams can work remarkably well without a distinct leader
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Paul Adams
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Intercom

Product Judgment - How some people can repeatedly create product success

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The Summary

Product judgment

  • Use your judgment to accurately predict what your customers need and want. Design and ship the right solution for them.
  • Use judgement in:
    • Roadmapping
    • Scoping
    • Designing

Learn from direct experiences with customers

  • Observe and talk to real customers, who are really using your product
  • Take in your customers’ perceptions and behavior.

Building a great product crosses many domains

  • Product judgment is domain-specific
  • The domain could be industry, the type of problem, or even design and price.

Product Judgment is transferable across similar domains

  • To build fully rounded product judgment, you need to talk to customers about all the domains of your product.