What Were You Thinking?!


Some good thoughts here and links to other interesting posts.

Originally posted on Applied Product Management Leadership:

Whether you call them a town hall meeting, an all-hands meeting, a quarterly business review, a state of the business address … I’m sure we’ve all had the opportunity to sit and listen to key business leaders within the companies we serve speak to the broader company.  Sometimes it is compelling, other times not so much.  And sometimes we are left with the thought … “what were they thinking”?

I have to admit that often times I wonder about that about key leaders I’ve been exposed to.  Not in the negative context that you might be imagining right now, but rather in the context of thoughts like:

  • what drives them?
  • how did they get to where they are today?
  • what is the essence of what makes them a good leader?

If you ever have the opportunity to sit and chat with a key business leader to explore these types of questions, jump at…

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Dealing with one-off feature requests


Another good piece on handling custom and one-off requests on your products.

Originally posted on Under10 by Steve Johnson:

‪A reader asks: How does one deal with one-off feature requests from sales people that are supposedly deal breakers?

Screen Shot 2015-05-08 at 8.50.52 AMNo product is ever finished. There’s always another feature needed. That’s why it seems many product managers are continually saying “no” to sales requests. Yet, to the sales person, these one-off requests for a single customer seem perfectly reasonable.

Look at it from a sales perspective: You don’t have this key feature; you don’t support this key technology. And the competitors do. Remember, the only time sales people hear something good about your product is at the annual kickoff meeting but they hear bad stuff all the time. [tweet this]

Maybe sales people don’t realize (or don’t care) that the company has limited resources. There’s always more work to do than resources to do the work.

(And by the way, the same is true for marketing programs. Why aren’t we going…

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A Sense of Purpose


Time for a dose of philosophy; thoughts in here fit well with some of my early posts on purpose. Hope you enjoy this one.

Originally posted on Transitions:


A sense of purpose is key to living a meaningful life. It is the heart of passion and it can bring us to deeper levels of long-term happiness, providing resilience amidst great hardships. A sense of purpose is something we often talk about wanting, seeking, or having, but it is somewhat illusive in our world of ongoing life-projects, characterized by multiple careers and highly fluid sociality. This philosophical investigation will provide a detailed blueprint of the concept of “purpose” and will hopefully help the reader along their DIY life-project.

The concept of “purpose” comes from the  Anglo-French “purpos,” referring to an intention, aim, or goal. Broadly speaking, it can refer to purposely getting drunk on the weekend, purposely caring for your loved ones, or even purposely putting the toilet seat down; therefore, purpose is goal-oriented action. In order to talk about the specific type of purpose I alluded…

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5 Critical Skills for Product Leaders


These are indeed 5 (or 6) key skills for product leaders regardless of title.

Originally posted on Under10 by Steve Johnson:

Without data, you’re just another person with an opinion. —W Edwards Deming, quality expert.

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Roles and responsibilities for product managers and product marketing managers vary from industry to industry and even from company to company within an industry. In general, we see product managers in mobile products more focused on technology skills while product managers for enterprise products tend to be more focused on sales and marketing. Hardware and semiconductor industries rely heavily on operational skills for product managers. When considering a product leadership role in any company, get specifics on the types of activities that are expected in the job.

But regardless of company and industry, there are a few key skills that every product leader needs to be effective.

Curiosity. Great product leaders are curious—about the product, how it works, how it’s designed, how it’s used. They’re curious about how the product is sold—which sales reps are most…

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Product management and empowering others


Key summary on the strategic role of the Product Manager throughout the product life cycle.

Originally posted on Under10 by Steve Johnson:

In a well-run organization, a single role has a single orientation; they either support [individual] customers or they support the market. — Peter Drucker.

Product management is about empowering others. In each stage of the life cycle—before, during, and after product development—the product manager brings clarity to the team.


In the planning/analysis phase, the product manager empowers executives. They have an idea for a product or feature, so the product manager fully defines the problem and examines the business ramifications such as when the feature can be built and what will NOT be built as a result. The product manager empowers executives with business expertise using tools like roadmaps, prioritized feature list, and business goals.

In the design and development stages, the product manager empowers the product team. With a long list of problems or features, the product manager provides priorities and context. The product manager explains the business need…

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Living with purpose

I spend a lot of time thinking about purpose.  Sometimes of course I’m too busy to raise my eyes above the whirlwind of tasks buffeting me through my day; on days like those (and there have been a number of them in the past few months) the only purpose I can focus on is simply getting through the mountain of responsibilities in front of me efficiently so that I can catch my breath and survey my work with more perspective.

But when I’m not completely swamped with urgent things to get done I regularly ask myself why I’m doing what I do.  What are my goals or what am I trying to accomplish?  What is the reason behind the tasks on my plate, and what should I do (or avoid doing) if I want to achieve my goals?  I don’t like drifting through life any more than I enjoy frantically rushing through it; I want to know that my actions and choices are part of fulfilling a larger purpose and making a unique contribution.  And if I discover that something I am doing is not contributing to that purpose or moving me toward those goals, I want to find a way to stop doing it.  As much as I can I want to use my time and talents to further my goals, not simply to get things done or make to the weekend.

This quest for living purposefully is part of why I prefer to focus on strategic and big-picture issues rather than spending all of my time on tactical, short-term, or reactive activities.  This can be a difficult struggle because so much of what I do as a Product Owner (similar to what some people think of as a Scrum Master but I’ll talk about that in a different post) is tactical and reactive as I respond to the questions of the development team, the support team, and the sales and marketing teams.  I have to actively carve out time to step back and plan (with the Product Manager) for the future of our product and to groom the backlog so it stays focused in the direction we want to move.

The importance I place on living with purpose also impacts how I think about this blog.  I’ve talked before here about why I started blogging in the first place, both why I enjoy it and what I’m hoping to accomplish through blogging.  Again I expect to write more about this soon but on a regular basis I stop and ask myself whether or not this blog is accomplishing what I want it to do.

Lots of people have written about the tyranny of the urgent (check one brief article about this here if you want to) or the value of living with a clearly articulated sense of purpose (Stephen Covey is one of my favorite authors on that subject).  From my perspective this fits well with the Agile Principles supporting the way my company seeks to develop software (check the link on the side panel for more on that).  Sometimes life and work can keep me too busy or preoccupied to focus on pursuing my purpose, but I wrestle against this when I notice it happening.  I wish it were easier to face every day and every task with this in mind, but in truth it’s not that simple.

Refocusing this blog

Those of you who have been reading my blog for a while probably know that in 2015 I began an experiment.  After a couple of years of writing mostly about Agile software development and my role as a product owner I wanted to broaden the set of topics i write about.  There are plenty of other things that I enjoy thinking and talking about – including leadership and pop culture – and lots of interesting things I was reading that I wanted some forum to share.  I set about writing multiple blog posts each week centered around these different topics.

Two problems emerged as I attempted to do this.  First, in the midst of a very busy personal and professional life I struggled to find time to write even brief posts every day (I should have learned from my experience writing a daily blog about our sprint development cycle for two weeks some way back – check it out if you’re interested).  Beyond this, I discovered that while I am interested in all kinds of things I’m only passionate about a few – and it is tougher to make time to write articulately about things that simply interest me as opposed to things that I feel more strongly about.

And so I plan to take this blog back to its roots and return to focusing primarily on writing about Agile software development.  From time to time I will still write about other topics when I have something particularly meaningful to me that I want to share, but I want to spend my blogging time (whenever I can carve it out) writing about topics that are more than merely interesting to me.  Hopefully that will make these posts more than just interesting to you loyal readers as well.

I have some ideas i want to explore in the coming weeks about purpose, decision making in complex environments, the role of a product owner or scrum master, and key attributes of effective Agile.  Expect to see posts on these topics and more over the spring.  Twitter remains a great place to read my random thoughts on other topics (follow me @asbiv).  And as always I welcome your thoughts and feedback here.  Thanks for reading.