Video: Product Strategy, Systems, and Frameworks with Sachin Rekhi
Slides: LinkedIn Learning: Product Strategy, Systems, and Frameworks
I was recently invited to speak as part of the Product Management Learning Series hosted by LinkedIn Learning. We covered a variety of my favorite product frameworks.
We started our discussion with some of the most effective ways to make a career transition into product management. The first approach is leveraging an adjacent role, like business operations, marketing, design, and engineering, to work with and impress your product partner and parlaying that experience into a product role. We also talked about how domain experts are often recruited to become product managers even without functional product experience. For example, I've had a friend with a masters degree in education become a product manager at an edtech startup, a sales operations professional become a PM at a sales tech startup, and an MD become a PM at a health care startup.
We then moved the discussion on to how to come up with a compelling product strategy. We covered the 6 dimensions that every product strategy needs to address, including the problem you're solving, target audience, value proposition, competitive advantage, growth strategy, and business model. And we discussed how you need to have strong interplay or coherence amongst the dimensions for your strategy to be compelling.
For years now I've been obsessed with understanding unique product cultures and how they enable companies to build world class products. One particular product culture that has always fascinated me is Amazon and their unique writing culture. I love talking to Amazon employees about how the writing culture is interwoven into their product development process and the pros and cons of it. But I was even more excited when Colin Bryar and Bill Carr published their new book, Working Backwards, which provides a deep dive into how the writing culture originated, the problems it sought to solve, the benefits it introduced, and the competitive advantage it created for Amazon. I wanted to share what I learned from the book for those evaluating whether to bring a writing culture to their own product teams.
The Lean Startup methodology, first described in 2008 by Eric Ries, has taken the startup world by storm. His 2011 book, The Lean Startup, has become a New York Times best seller, selling millions of copies to aspirational entrepreneurs. The concepts the methodology describes, from hypothesis testing, to MVPs, to pivots, have become common vernacular in startup circles. And every major business school now offers an innovation class that leverages the business model canvas and other lean principles for developing a new product idea.
When an ideology becomes dominant, I find it helpful to read other perspectives on the topic to better inform my own thinking around it. So this past week I decided to re-read Peter Thiel's Zero to One, another New York Times best seller, that he published in 2014 based on lecture notes from a course on startups he taught at Stanford in 2012. Peter Thiel, the consummate contrarian, delivers a compelling anti-lean startup manifesto and offers an alternative playbook for startup founders. I wanted to share that perspective and playbook for startup founders looking to build a more robust toolkit for finding startup success.
The most important journey any new product goes through is finding product/market fit. Marc Andreessen, who popularized the term, defined it as:
Product/market fit means being in a good market with a product that can satisfy that market.
Despite sounding so simple, the majority of new products fail due to never finding this illusive fit. This fit illudes both new startups creating their very first product as it does established organizations seeking to expand their product portfolio. From Viddy to Quibi to Google Wave, we can all name famous product failures. And even more die quietly without such fanfare.
As a serial entrepreneur, I've been on a quest to learn how best to find product/market fit for each new product I build to avoid the pitfalls so many run into. In doing so, I've been collecting the very best resources on the topic for years. After reading and watching hundreds of essays, books, and videos, I wanted to share a curated collection of the very best resources I've found to help give you the best chance of finding product/market fit for your own product.
These resources cover everything from defining product/market fit, motivating it's importance, developing an experimentation culture to help you pivot towards product/market fit, measuring product/market fit, and case studies of startups own journey to product/market fit.
While they certainly won't guarantee your success, being well versed in the mental models, tools, and processes these resources offer will undoubtedly increase your chances.
Video: How to Master Influencing Without Authority
Slides: How to Master Influencing Without Authority
Essays: The Art of Being Compelling | Engaging in Product Debates | The Most Underrated Product Management Skill: Influence Without Authority
In June I was invited by Dan Olsen to speak at the Lean Product Meetup. I decided to give a talk on what I believe to be one of the most underrated skills in product management: influencing without authority.
It's widely understood that product managers own the product but do not manage any of the resources required to successfully launch and iterate on it. Despite understanding this, PMs often under-invest in building the crucial skill of influence without authority. Whether it's engineers or designers on their team, cross-functional partners, or executives, PMs must be able to effectively influence each of these stakeholders in order to launch world-class products for their customers. In this talk I share my framework and best practices for doing just that. I'll walk through how to make compelling arguments specifically targeted at each stakeholder you need to influence. And thereby significantly improve your ability to convey ideas, reduce decision churn, and get your projects greenlit.