Messaging the direction

Read this great post on AVC today ::

It reminds me of some thoughts on product management – then I realized how I had written up this multi-parter but never got past part 1. oops.

Let me add my point – which is based on this comment from Fred:

The number one cause of employee unhappiness and unwanted departures is “I don’t understand where we are going.” That is a failure of leadership on the CEO’s part. I agree with John, keep it simple and repeat often and don’t mix up your messages. It is critical, particularly as the organization grows in size.

One of the hardest problems I faced with teams small or large was keeping everyone on the same page and making sure the product management process aligned with the business process. It would be easy to find work to do or to evolve a product or a feature or just let a dev work on something “cool”. Problem is though that all those things may not help solve a business goal. 

The issue is you need to convey to the product team where the company is going and how the product cadences will help the company meet the business goals. There is no perfect way to manage all of this but what started to work for me was having 6 month big picture meetings where business goals where stated and the product roadmap would be discussed as a group but with the clear idea that the product needed to support the business needs. Then we would try to break things down by quarter and by month. At a product level we might even get down to 2 week sprints. 

At the beginning of the 6 months, post the big pow wow meeting, everyone knew where we were going and everyone knew their role in the outcome. This helped with dealing with wayward devs or product creep but this also helped deal with the other side of the coin which is when the biz folks would change their mind midstream. I think it is important to hold both sides accountable – if you stick to the plan then normal schedules are okay but if the biz people want to alter the course, which is perfectly okay, then the biz people must accept that the product schedule will get pushed back. 

This way everyone knows the plan, everyone knows how to make it work and everyone is accountable for time changes if there are scope changes. It is not easy. No amount of tools make it easier but making sure everyone knows where the biz is going and how is an important step in how product management works.

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