It sounds strange, but only at first glance

Product management is a broad and varied discipline. Among the less obvious aspects of that discipline is the fact that product management is, at its heart, risk management.

At first, this assertion might seem crazy. Risk management sounds like legacy industries, big infrastructure projects executed in a stage-gate process, and lots of box-ticking exercises. That is pretty much the antipode of software product development, where you progress iteratively, accepting even to proverbially “move fast and break things”.

At a closer look, though, the end goal of developing software iteratively and shipping quickly is precisely to reduce risks. Product development is…

Looking to break into product management? Here are some pointers

Over the years, I’ve given advice to quite a few people who were interested in breaking into product management. Amongst other things, I’ve always left them with a list of books and articles to read — there is a lot of great content that can shed more light on the job of product management and give tangible advice on getting into product management.

I have written some pieces myself that would be relevant in this respect — the PM 101 series, for example, or my articles on CVs and product interviews. …

“It depends”, of course, but here’s what it depends on

Many product management job descriptions list an engineering or computer science degree as a prerequisite. While technical skills and experience can certainly be an asset for product managers, it is an interesting question how much of it is needed and to what extent a hard requirement like having a degree in the field is appropriate.

First and foremost, it is important to recognize that product management is, first and foremost, a soft skills job. That’s because product management is mostly about getting different people to work together effectively and in alignment. Sure, there are lots of product decisions to be…

You don’t need a product prioritization framework, but a pyramid

Prioritization is one of the top challenges product managers are facing. Every product team has vastly more ideas than time to build them, necessitating prioritization. What makes this challenge even harder than the scarcity of resources is the uncertainty around the fundamental characteristics of each potential option to pursue: not only is the effort unclear, but even the likelihood of a positive impact is unknown.

For this reason, there is a lot of discussion how to prioritize product improvement ideas in order to maximize impact and the possibility of success. …

How to improve your product management and leadership practices

Product management is a relatively new discipline that keeps evolving rapidly. Every week, there are new articles about product development best practices that industry leaders are following. This deluge of information can make it difficult to understand what practices to follow and how to look for improvement opportunities in one’s own work and team.

Moreover, this constant evolution means that what is considered best practice today might be outdated tomorrow. For instance, earlier this year, news broke that Spotify is no longer following the “Spotify model”, which for a while was hailed as the model for a large scale product…

Some things I’ve learned along the way

I’ve been in product management and product leadership roles for half a decade now, and I’ve picked up a thing or two along the way. In this post, I am sharing 25 bite-sized lessons that I have learned over time — I hope they can help make you a better product manager, too.

1. Start with Why

A product manager should link the team’s work to the vision — both the company vision and a vision for their specific product area. Shared purpose provides intrinsic motivation, so communicate “why” first rather than what or how.

More thoughts on why you should “Start With Why”…

Building your product muscle, one hour at a time

I usually don’t write much about breaking into product management — I believe that there are others who have more valuable insights to share than I do, and I therefore focus my writing on what I have learned while working as a product manager and product leader. Whenever I do share advice for people wanting to break into product, it’s only because I have a perspective or idea that I consider reasonably unique. Today, I want to share one exercise to get better at product management job interviews.

There are several books and countless online resources to help land a…

Why implementing hyped frameworks won’t get you far

The product development world is enamored with best practices and frameworks. Hardly a week goes by in which there isn’t another set of processes and practices being discussed and at times even hyped: from the Spotify model to Basecamp’s Shape Up, from Scrum to SAFe, from Design Sprints to RICE prioritization, people are looking for plug and play solutions that will make them more effective and efficient at designing and shipping products that are beneficial to their customers and their business.

However, it is a delusion to think that implementing any of these best practices and frameworks top to bottom…

Why you should let your teams figure out what to build

One of the central best practices of modern product development is the empowered product team. An empowered team is a cross-functional team, composed of product, design, and engineering, that is tasked with solving specific customer problems in ways that serve the business. In other words, these teams have goals for customer and business outcomes, not goals in terms of the output (products or features shipped).

However, most organizations do not follow this model, but instead have delivery or feature teams that build product features that someone else (leadership or business stakeholders) has scoped, prioritized, and put on a roadmap. …

Delivering as many good ideas as possible doesn’t create great products

In many product organizations, quarterly goal setting exercises and roadmaps discussions amount to a negotiation between product leadership and/or product management and the rest of the team, how many features can get built in a given time frame. The backlog is long and there are so many good ideas on the table. There is the general mindset of “the more good ideas we deliver on, the better our product will be”.

Product leaders often instill this mindset in their product managers and product teams by setting stretch goals and asking the teams to deliver as much as they possibly can.

Jens-Fabian Goetzmann

Experienced product leader, previously at 8fit, Yammer, BCG. Currently working on something new.

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