Lean Product Management Methodology
Lean Product Management Methodology
Lean Product Management methodology is the combination of the traditional product management role with the modern principles and practices of Lean, Lean Startup, Strategy, Innovation and Behavioral Economics to enable sustained growth by continuously delivering to market products customers love.
In a previous post we were explaining what Lean Product Management is and why it is important.
Now, we want to focus on the key practices of Lean Product Management methodology.
Modern digital businesses are changing the way they organize so that value can flow fast to market and new products and services have great market acceptance and enable constant waves of growth.
There is one actor which is key to the success of digital product organizations: the product manager or value stream manager. Who is responsible from idea to execution of delivering great customer experiences and sustained business growth by inspiring with a vision, defining a wining strategy and leading the implementation and go-to-market.
Lean Product Managers require some basic skills like any other leader: emotional intelligence, negotiation, leading without authority, communication, public speaking, and so on. That we take for granted. But, there are a set of skills and practices that great Product Managers need to master in order to lead successful product teams towards business growth and customer satisfaction. And, this is what we talk about in our 2-day workshop and we will summarize in this blog post.
The Product Lifecycle
Lean Product Management requires you understand that every feature, product or service has a lifecycle. At any point in time each idea will be at a different stage in the lifecycle that will require different techniques, practices and decisions. The consequence of not understanding this can lead to premature scaling or to big design up front (BDUF) approach.
We can differentiate the following stages and sub-stages:
- Problem-Solution Fit
- Product-Market Fit (Validation)
- Execution (Scale)
Each one of these phases has different characteristics and different decisions, metrics and work that you will have to do. If you interpret incorrectly what stage your product is currently in you will suffer and eventually die.
Your prioritization mechanisms and your investment decisions are different in each one of the phases.
This is one of the biggest issues and probably the reason most products fail to achieve market adoption. The reason is twofold. Just because you had a great idea under the shower it doesn’t mean it will turn into a scalable and sustainable business. On the other hand, big organizations dedicate way too much time and resources to generating a 50-page business case (business plan) and then fully fund it and execute on it with the expectation it will deliver the envisioned results.
Modern product management requires a Lean approach to business modelling. We believe from day one until product retirement you are continuously evolving your business model. We believe that the right business model is the difference between success and failure of the same product. In other words, your product is your business model and you must iterate and incrementally evolve it from the beginning.
Early on in the process there are many things you can do to assess business model viability. You must determine your biggest risks and the amount of uncertainty and decide what to do next accordingly. In the same way as in Agile Software Development you break a delivery into small chunks to reduce uncertainty, risk and improve flow, you have to do the same but with the business model, where instead of having Epics and User Stories you have business model risks and assumptions.
In our Lean Product Management workshop and programs you will learn how to validate desirability and viability early on and until achieving product-market fit with practical tools and methods.
Product-Market Fit is the most important milestone in the lifecycle of a product to which we pay special attention within Lean Product Management methodology to avoid usual traps and mistakes.
Product-Market Fit is being in the right market with the right product. It is a key milestone in the life cycle of any product (or feature). It is the intersection between value generated and value captured.
Product-Market Fit is the point in the life cycle of a product (or feature) where you can objectively verify quantitatively that you are capturing monetizable value from the market.
To achieve product-market fit you must be able to get traction in the market by evolving your MVP until you reach a point where you can safely push the accelerator for growth. Scaling before achieving product-market fit is lethal.
It is a key skill for a Lean Product Manager to define what goes into the first MVP and to be able to evolve it based on market feedback and business model evolution.
It is also important to know when to take a different route (Pivot).
A great product strategy boils down basically to properly answer the following two questions:
- Where to play?
- How to win?
From the first moment we have an idea we must be able to clearly answer those questions. We have to be laser-focused on which markets and customers we want to target and what is the strategy to win their hearts and wallets.
You are always competing against something or someone else. So, you must be clear on how you plan to win. Even in new markets, you are competing against non-consumption.
The error many companies still make here is thinking that product strategy is a vision, or some strategic goals or just copying competitors. That is not product strategy.
A wining strategy always looks simple and obvious and does not take a thick PowerPoint slide deck to explain it. It doesn’t come out of some strategic management tool, matrix, chart, triangle, or canvas. Instead, a talented leader identifies the one or two critical issues in the situation and then focuses and concentrates action on them.
The core of strategy work is always the same: discovering the critical factors in a situation and designing a way of coordinating and focusing actions to deal with those factors. The most important responsibility of a lean product manager is identifying the biggest challenges upfront and devising a coherent approach to overcoming them.
In our 2-day Lean Product Management workshop and in our coaching programs for product leaders we teach you how to properly define a wining strategy and how to evolve it as a cornerstone of Lean Product Management methodology.
Embedding Strategy into Execution
Assuming you have a sound product strategy now you need to make sure everybody is rowing in the same direction and feedback and information is flowing in order to update your strategy if required.
This is also a huge pain point for many organizations which many are trying to overcome with OKRs nowadays.
OKRs is a method for goal setting that allows you to connect strategy with exeuction and enable decentralization and leadership at all levels in your organization.
We have a series of blog posts about OKRs.
If you are a Product Manager, Product Owner, Head of Product or Chief Product Officer you will agree that Product Roadmaps are a nightmare and the source of many of your headaches at work.
You can either think you are using Product Roadmaps wrongly or they are useless and you should ditch them right away.
We believe Product Roadmaps serve a purpose, however the traditional implementation creates more problems than it addresses.
First thing we need to do is to accept reality. We need to face the embarrassing truths about product roadmaps:
- Most of our product ideas are just not going to work
- Even with ideas that have the conditions to work it will take an undetermined amount of time to achieve the expected business value. This is what we call product-market fit
- The moment we put a set of ideas in a document called “roadmap” people will interpret the items as a commitment
The result is that we often ship stuff nobody wants or we cancel a development after a huge investment and effort.
To overcome these problems and truly benefit from roadmaps we need to:
- Understand what needs or problems we are trying to address with roadmaps
- Understand what an effective Product Roadmap is, so it can address those needs
- How to make it happen
With an outcome-based roadmap you connect your business goals with delivery while keeping everybody aligned and providing the required predictability at strategic level.
A Lean Product Roadmap is a strategic communication tool that represents a prototype of your product strategy and connects your vision with the implementation.
Product Managers are always asking themselves one question: What should we do next?
Lean is about doing the right thing, at the right moment in the right quantity. And, to do that, you must take decisions, you must be able to say NO, you must have information to allow you to take the proper decision.
In order to prioritize work you new to know what stage of the product lifecycle your product currently is and how much money you want to invest. In other words, what is your level of uncertainty and how much money you need to reduce that uncertainty and take a decision.
You cannot prioritize properly, however, if you don’t have a clear vision, connect with your company’s purpose, your basic principles of behavior, a product strategy and some key business goals.
Once you know what is important for you, then you need to decide what goes first, second and so on. And for that, there are many frameworks you can use that work really well depending whether you are in ideation, exploration or execution phase.
In our 2-day Lean Product Management workshop you will learn how to adequately prioritize customer jobs, customer outcomes, experiments, features in your MVP, assumptions and deliverables with the appropriate prioritization framework.
This is probably still today one of the biggest weaknesses in product management and product organizations. Despite the amount of data available and analytics tools product teams and organizations use the wrong metrics for the wrong decisions at many different levels.
The most important thing you need to know here, is that at any given moment, based on your product strategy, your business model and the stage in the product lifecycle you are in, there are just a few metrics you should be looking at. And, a great Lean Product Manager knows that.
Having too many metrics or too little is usually the mistake. What you have to do is change the metrics according to your business evolution.