Nobody cares about your product (Part 2)

In my previous blog we looked at how customers look at your product. In essence, they don’t care about the product, they care about the problem they have and how your product can make it go away. If the problem goes away, so will your product. So the key lesson here is:

“a good Product Manager does not fall in love with his product, but with the problem”

Let’s dive into a simple technique to figure out if we are on the right path.

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Nobody cares about your product (Part 1)

There are so many takedown techniques in Jūjutsu. By the time you reach your first belt you have learned at least 4 different throws, 3 different joint-locks and a variety of hooks that you can apply to get your opponent to the mat.

At belt level exams the Sensei will ask to start with your favorite take down technique. In your comfort zone you are most likely to give a good performance. After that, you need to demonstrate the techniques outside your comfort zone. The point is that there is more way to achieve what we need than the one we favor, and if you want to survive, you better learn different approaches to achieve the desired outcome.

In fact as a Product Manager we tend to fall in love with our solution, with our product, but a good Product Manager falls in love with the problem his or her product is trying to solve.

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Nine Product Management lessons from the Dojo

Are you kidding? a chance to add the Matrix to a blogpost?

Are you kidding? a chance to add the Matrix to a blogpost?

As I am gearing up for the belt exams next Saturday I couldn’t help to notice the similarities of what we learn in the dojo (it’s where the martial arts are taught) and how we should behave as Product Managers. Here are 9 lessons, straight from the Dojo, ready for your day job:Read more →

Judo Strategy

In the age of disruption incumbents with decades of history get swept away by startups at an alarming rate. What allows these fledgling companies to succeed? What is their strategy and how can you defend against such an opponent?

I found that that the similarities between Judo and Business strategy allow us to apply the Judo principles to become a Product Samurai.

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A product manager’s perfection….

is achieved not there are no more features to add, but when there are no more features to take away. — Antoine de Saint Exupéry

Not only was Antoine a brilliant writer, philosopher and pilot (well arguably since he crashed in the Mediterranean) but most of all he had a sharp mind about engineering, and I frequent quote him when I train product owners, product managers or in general product companies, about what makes a good product great. I also tell them their most important word in their vocabulary is “no”. But the question then becomes, what is the criteria to say “yes”?

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When development resembles the ageing of wine

Once upon a time I was asked to help out a software product company.  The management briefing went something like this: “We need you to increase productivity, the guys in development seem to be unable to ship anything! and if they do ship something it’s only a fraction of what we expected”.

And so the story begins. Now there are many ways how we can improve the teams outcome and its output (the first matters more), but it always starts with observing what they do today and trying to figure out why.

It turns out that requests from the business were treated like a good wine, and were allowed to “age”, in the oak barrel that was called Jira. Not so much to add flavour in the form of details, requirements, designs, non functional requirements or acceptance criteria, but mainly to see if the priority of this request would remain stable over a period of time.

In the days that followed I participated in the “Change Control Board” and saw what he meant. Management would change priorities on the fly and make swift decisions on requirements that would take weeks to implement. To stay in vinotology terms, wine was poured in and out the barrels at such a rate that it bore more resemblance to a blender than to the art of wine making.

Though management was happy to learn I had unearthed to root cause to their problem, they were less pleased to learn that they themselves were responsible.  The Agile world created the Product Owner role for this, and it turned out that this is hat, that can only be worn by a single person.

Once we funnelled all the requests through a single person, both responsible for the success of the product and for the development, we saw a big change. Not only did the business got a reliable sparring partner, but the development team had a single voice when it came to setting the priorities. Once the team starting finishing what they started we started shipping at regular intervals, with features that we all had committed to.

Of course it did not take away the dynamics of the business, but it allowed us to deliver, and become reliable in how and when we responded to change. Perhaps not the most aged wine, but enough to delight our customers and learn what we should put in our barrel for the next round.

Want to learn more about using martial arts in product management? Go order the book from if you are in the Netherlands or Belgium or sign up to get the international edition.

The Product Manager's guide to Continuous Innovation

Agile: how hard can it be?!

Yesterday my colleagues and I ran an awesome workshop at the MIT conference in which we built a Rube Goldberg machine using Scrum and Extreme Engineering techniques. As agile coaches one would think that being an Agile team should come naturally to us, but I’d like to share our pitfalls and insights with you since “we learned a lot” about being an agile team and what an incredible powerful model a Rube Goldberg machine is for scaled agile product development.

If you’re not the reading type, check out the video.

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About snowmen and mathematical proof why agile works

Last week I had an interesting course by Roger Sessions on Snowman Architecture. The perishable nature of Snowmen under any serious form of pressure fortunately does not apply to his architecture principles, but being an agile fundamentalist I noticed some interesting patterns in the math underlying the Snowmen Architecture that are well rooted in agile practices. Understanding these principles may give facts to feed your gut feeling about these philosophies and give mathematical proof as to why Agile works.

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