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Product Management in Practice

The principles, practices, and day-to-day tactics of successful product management

Matt LeMay

Positioned at the intersection of business, design, and technology, product management is fast emerging as one of the most critical business roles of the 21st century. Yet product managers often struggle to find concrete guidance on how to address the most pressing challenges of their day-to-day work. How do you align business goals with the fast-changing needs of customers? How do you translate between the concerns of highly specialized design and technology professionals? And how do you bring the best of Agile and Lean processes into real-world organizational settings?

In this workshop, you’ll learn about the principles, practices, and day-to-day tactics that product managers use to drive better outcomes for themselves, their teams, and their organizations. In two three-hour classes, through a combination of lecture, discussion, hands-on exercises, and Q&A, we’ll focus on building the core skills that are critical for product managers at organizations of any size, in any industry. You’ll develop actionable plans for applying these skills to your specific organizational context. By the end of the course you’ll be inspired by what great product management can accomplish, and you’ll be armed with the know-how to turn that inspiration into action.

Two Session Class

Session 1: June 26, 2017

Session 2: June 27, 2017

What you'll learn-and how you can apply it

  • A set of guiding principles of successful product management across companies and industries
  • Common misconceptions and pitfalls around product management
  • Key approaches and tactics for improving the “soft” connective skills that are critical to a product manager’s success

And you’ll be able to:

  • Translate and align the needs of developers, designers, and other members of a core product team.
  • Work with stakeholders to set and execute against concrete, actionable goals.
  • Gain insights directly from customers using qualitative and quantitative data.
  • Implement and customize Agile development frameworks.

This training course is for you because...

  1. You’re a product manager or product owner looking for principles, approaches, and on-the-ground tactics you can apply to better align stakeholders, set actionable goals, and facilitate the creation of successful products.
  2. You’re in a nonproduct or product-adjacent role (such as designer or business analyst) and you want to better understand product management and potentially transition into a product management role.
  3. You work as a designer or developer on a team without product management, and you want to bring the discipline and structure of product management to your team.

Prerequisites

An active interest in exploring the role of product management plus some experience working with or adjacent to digital product teams.

Prework

Please read through this Product Manager Job Description handout before class begins: we will discuss it together in class

Participants will be given links to a few articles on product management to read before the workshop begins, and they’ll receive a few handouts/worksheets that will be used in the course.

The exercises in this course are highly collaborative and designed for small groups. Register with your whole team to work on exercises together, or join as an individual and we’ll connect you with other participants, assigning you to a small group in Slack.

*Slack access is not required but is strongly recommended to get the benefit of full participation in the small-group exercises.

Recommended Preparation:

Making It Right: Product Management For A Startup World

Agile Product Management with Scrum: Creating Products that Customers Love

About your instructor

  • Matt LeMay is the co-founder of Constellate Data, a consultancy that helps companies bring human depth and dimension back to their data. In his work as a technology communicator, Matt has developed and led product management and data strategy workshops for companies like GE, American Express, Pfizer, McCann, and Johnson & Johnson. Previously, Matt worked as Senior Product Manager at music startup Songza (acquired by Google), and Head of Consumer Product at Bitly. Matt is also a musician, recording engineer, and the author of a book about singer-songwriter Elliott Smith

Schedule

The timeframes are only estimates and may vary according to how the class is progressing

Session 1: June 26, 2017 (3 hours)

Introductions (10 minutes)

What is product management? (20 minutes)

DISCUSSION, LECTURE, AND HANDOUT REVIEW:

  • A few participants will share their experience of how the companies they work at define product manager and/or product owner roles. We’ll review a handful of job listings for product managers at different types of companies to identify and discuss commonalities and differences in the way product management is defined, and how it maps to the day-to-day work of product management. The instructor will introduce the four CORE skills of product management: Communication, Organization, Research, and Execution.

What makes a great product manager? (20 minutes)

LECTURE AND DISCUSSION: We’ll go over each of the four CORE skills and discuss how they can be assigned a guiding principle that helps focus and direct a product manager’s work.

  • COMMUNICATION: Clarity over comfort
  • ORGANIZATION: Don’t break the rules; change the rules.
  • RESEARCH: Live in your customer’s reality
  • EXECUTION: No work above, no work below
  • SUMMARY: These skills and principles tend to work together—so for the rest of this class, we’ll focus on real-world applications and exercises where you will need to bring all of these skills and principles to bear.

Break (10 minutes)

Managing stakeholders: The Art of Egregious Overcommunication (45 minutes)

LECTURE AND DISCUSSION: To succeed in the connective responsibilities of product management and product ownership, you must be comfortable communicating a lot. But how can you do this without falling into “death by meeting” and distracting people from the work at hand? The Agile practices we will talk about in the second part of this course are one way to do this. But there is an art to egregious overcommunication. Through a combination of lecture and discussion, we’ll go over three effective approaches you can use to make sure that you’re communicating both extensively and efficiently, and we’ll draw up action plans to implement these approaches.

Break (10 minutes)

Small-group exercise: A goals-first approach to prioritization (50 minutes)

Conclusion of Session 1/Q&A (15 minutes)

Session 2: June 27, 2017 (3 hours)

Introduction/Brief recap (5 minutes)

Learning about customers from qualitative and quantitative data (1 hour)

LECTURE: Product managers are responsible for bringing not just the voice of the customer, but the perspective of their customer into the organization. That means understanding both what customers are saying and what they’re doing—and, more importantly, understanding why. It means taking a broader view of our customers as people to truly understand their needs and open ourselves up to discovering new things.

A holistic approach to qualitative and quantitative data (40 minutes)

LECTURE AND DISCUSSION: Analytics can help you notice trends and patterns—but they don’t tell you ‘why.” We’ll look at a handful of qualitative and quantitative signals and discuss what kinds of things you need to know before you take action, when it’s essential to take action, and what next steps you might take.

Learning, not selling: Best practices for talking to customers (10 minutes)

LECTURE:To really learn from our customers when we speak with them, we must be able to check our expertise at the door. The same techniques and approaches that can help you build camaraderie and alignment with stakeholders can make it impossible to learn from your customers. We’ll go over a few basic tips for really learning from your customers.

Break (10 mins)

Agile, Lean, and all that (40 mins)

LECTURE, DISCUSSION, AND EXERCISE: For many people in product roles, much of their job boils down to implementing and managing product development practices and processes. In this section, we’ll talk about the high-level goals of these practices, and how we can make sure that whatever process we are either implementing or walking into works for our team. We’ll review the history and evolution of Agile and engage in an exercise and discussion based on the rituals of Agile.

Break (10 minutes)

Activity: Product Pictionary (40 minutes)

Whether you’re working with stakeholders or customers, it will often fall on you to somehow represent what a product will be. This can be through storyboarding or through crude mock-ups and prototypes. In this rapid-fire exercise, you’ll be challenged to represent a product idea using whatever visual medium you can—screenshots, napkin sketches—in a very short period of time. Working in teams, you’ll rapidly  translate user needs/quotes and business goals directly into product ideas. We’ll use Slack to share ideas. Work quickly and see how it goes!

Conclusion/Q&A (15 minutes)