Making Linear Thinking “chic” again

Making Linear Thinking “chic” again

Last week we published the CloudTeams Playbook, a guide for Product Managers to become customer-driven. I tried to contact  people of my network to collect feedback – apart from the dedicated workshop – and I got very useful and practical input, such as “we are definitely not lean, closer to scrum”, “steps 7-12 are omitted” or “I work on step 10”. For me that feedback was fantastic! It meant that we had really built a guide where people were able to distinguish the steps, recognize their operations on the map, communicate more easily what they do and don’t do at work, and where each team member focuses.

Those interactions reminded me to point out that the CloudTeams methodology may be modified when adapted by a software team; Actually, it should be modified to fit the team’s culture. The core methodology is  an effort to separate validation from verification, and engage the team in more frequent feedback loops with its customers and users,while a user persona is the main document to transfer the generated knowledge throughout different steps (see picture below ).

The CloudTeams methodology with agile development on the bottom
The CloudTeams methodology unfolded

What we many times forget is that based on the maturity of product and the market, as well as the mentality of the team, there are steps that may be skipped. As seen on the example of the picture below, a Waterfall approach would focus on complete, well defined and executed cycles. A Lean approach would try to run early experiments to experiment mostly on pricing, even without actual builds of software, and then implement focused but verified software. An Agile approach would focus more on user feedback before going to the customer, in a more design-thinking approach where the team believes that a good product will drive sales.

The CloudTeams methodology adapted by existing methodologies
example: The CloudTeams methodology executed by a Waterfall, an Agile and a Lean team

Agile, Lean, even Rigid methodologies may be valid and effective as long as they are used in the proper context. Nevertheless, if a team follows the CloudTeams methodology, it should just adjust the suggested (12) steps accordingly to meet the business needs and goals where it operates; team members will not need to “learn new tricks”, the product manager will “just” orchestrate the steps and the tools to “make the engine work smoothly”, and thus the business will be more flexible moving from Lean for experimentation, to Agile for usage growth, to Rigid techniques for market growth, and back to Lean to (re)innovate.

We are told to run in cycles while we have a linear thinking. Thus I believe that if we work on the CloudTeams methodology we may have a common standard for product management. Please go and read the playbook, and let me know what you think about it.

 

 

 

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The reading list of a Product Manager

The reading list of a Product Manager

During my recent presentation on a CloudTeams workshop we organized about Product Management, I came up with a slide that boosted audience’s interest. I have written before a list of the 10+1 top books for entrepreneurs, but this list focuses on Product Managers, and I consider it is useful to describe the idea behind it.

reading lisy pm.PNG

Maybe the greatest trend lately in business is the concept of Design Thinking. I have tried to go deeper in that theory with various online articles and books. Design Thinking is a culture for modern teams on how products should be developed, how teams should be organized, and organizations should communicate. We may consider it as an “umbrella theory” that few have mastered.

The first (in my opinion) step to master Design Thinking is the Theory of Jobs to be to Done, introduced by C. Christensen. In order to engage the team in meaningful innovation activities, team members should focus on real customers’ needs. This brainstorming and collaboration framework allows people to see a broader space of meaningful solutions.

However, even if a team masters this theory, specific ideas should emerge and be prioritized; not to mention how difficult it may be to be implemented. This is where the “Sprint” methodology may be used to put the team on the track of detailed solutions, and the fast validation of them, through techniques of prototyping. Even if booking a 5-day prototyping session looks weird, the tools and steps described in this book are effective and engaging. At the end, at least you will know how prototyping may be implemented and not remain “yet another buzzword” for you.

If a PM is lucky to find a promising idea, it is time to deliver it. Much has been written about the “Lean Startup methodology, thus the only think I may add is how important it is for a PM to understand the difference between an MVP and a prototype (see picture below). If the team is in a Lean mentality and wants to run a fast experiment to validate the market, this is the proper time. Otherwise, if the team wants to be “Agile” and complete a functional product before testing, more reading and effort is needed.

mvp vs prototype.png

If you want to become Agile – rather than Lean -, you should master the book “Lean Analytics. The two things you have to do is to choose your business model and  the one metric you measure in each iteration, based on the stage where your product is.

What Lean and Agile usually miss is the need to tune up and master the channels of a company. This is why you need the help of the “Bullseye Framework.

So, we are at the end of the journey, but everyone needs a revision. The best framework for doing that is the “Four Steps to the epiphany. I liked the initial edition better, but you may go for the “Entrepreneur’s Guide”.

Last but not least, there are some books that you need to read and are extremely useful. “Running Lean will teach you how to interview customers, BM generation will help you talk a common language even with business students, and “Ten Types of Innovation” is the ultimate handbook for people who want to innovate on business models.

I hope you liked this “progressive reading list”, it took me some years to put everything together. If you like it, share it with others. If you think I missed something, let me know. Soon, we will also release the “CloudTeams Handbook” where you will see a more detailed manual on how practicing those theories, tools and frameworks. Stay tuned!