Defend the Vision

Without a vision, any direction is valid…

Screen Shot 2016-01-08 at 10.08.24 PMFor years I managed product direction, strategy, and delivery. I developed two simple rules to product management. Rule #2 for any product manager is to defend the vision. Rule #1 is to build the best product for the market opportunity (vision). Often rule #2 is more difficult to adhere to than rule #1.

Every day customers, partners, sellers, managers, and competitors add additional requirements to your product direction. This causes stress, anxiety, and churn… but only if you have no vision to evaluate each new request. For example, one customer will commit to a $500K deal this quarter if you add two arbitrary features. However, no other customer needs these features. If you agree you have an instant $500K in the bank, but to accept these two features you need to drop another feature that once released in the market will net you $20M. What do you do? When you are true to your vision, and your vision can be executed and brought to market in time (meaning not arriving late to the party to discover all the beer and snacks are gone), the answer is pretty simple: “No, we are not going to do these two features.” Continue reading

Undivided Generosity

Screen Shot 2015-12-30 at 5.57.27 PMSimone Weil, a French philosopher, once said “attention is the rarest and purest form of generosity.” 

How often do you have your smartphone in your hand, checking a text or an email and you say to the person you are with, “Keep speaking, I’m listening”?

Our modern world constantly distracts us with instant messaging, Facebook messaging, Twitter, email, texting, Instagram, and so many other forms of distraction. We’ve become addicted to multi-tasking. Work, family, and personal time is no longer divided instead it is integrated, constantly connected, setting expectations that you are always “on” and ready to engage with whomever and whenever. Even the new connected watches allow you to read your messages while on a run, checking time, or waking in the middle of the night to quickly check your messages. Continue reading

Just Start!

Just StartI recall a long road trip with a friend back in university. I was at the wheel while he read a self-help or business book. At one point he looked up from the book, gazed at the horizon and said, “I really need to be nicer to people if I am going to influence them and get ahead.” I thought this was a good reflection as he was sharp with his words and critical of his friends and colleagues. Hours later we arrived at our destination to discover the hotel had messed up our reservations. He was frustrated, immediately raised his force and started giving the hotel staff a miserable time. I laughed and reflected back at his thoughts in the car. Later I raised the subject with him and he was embarrassed and laughed at himself. It’s not easy to read these books and immediately think you’ll be successful. It takes personal reflection and an ability to be candidly honest with yourself. And sometimes you just need to stop reflecting, dreaming, and thinking… and just start. Continue reading

When Customer Meetings Literally Explode…

Weeks went into planning this morning’s customer meeting in Madrid. We had people fly in from North America. I flew in from Paris along with several other colleagues from various locations across Europe. Timing of the meeting was built around the availability of this customer’s CIO. We had 11 people from our business and the customer showed up with 12. It was a big meeting meant to solidify the foundation to sign a large deal in Q1. Being in Spain, many customers don’t speak English so a decision was made to unfold the meeting in Spanish with small interludes of translation for the non-Spanish speakers. Continue reading

How do you manage results with incentives?

In the 1990s I worked for a one organization where bonuses were paid annually tied to annual financial indicators and whether or not I was a strong performer. The latter part of the evaluation was subjective based on how well I did as an individual contributor, manager, or team player. Being an annual bonus the evaluation was averaged out over the year and didn’t provide a sense of urgency for immediate change going into the next evaluation period.

In the early 2000s I found myself with a new employer. The bonus system was based on quarterly management by objectives (MBOs). The bonuses were measured and paid quarterly. They comprised individual task completion, company revenue and profit objectives, adoption of new business directions, and team objectives. They were black and white, recorded, exposed for everyone to see, and much less subjective. Continue reading

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