Six Ways Product Managers Can Help Their Agile Development Teams (and vice versa)

A discussion on how development and product management can work better together… I like to start such sessions with unfiltered comments from development managers about their (good and bad) experiences with product managers. Typically, these include more disappointment than elation, which gives us a chance to recap the critical parts of the product job that development teams don’t see. And how we can focus on building and shipping great products, rather than title or roles.

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Managing the Unmanageable

I’ve had the great pleasure of reading an early copy of “Managing the Unmanageable: Rules, Tools and Insights for Managing Software People and Teams.”  Co-author Ron Lichty is a veteran Silicon Valley VP of Engineering, having done important work at Apple, Berkeley Systems, Schwab and Razorfish. I know Ron from his SVForum leadership and his “VPE of Fix-It” consulting. The book starts with the sociology and psychology of programmers, and why they are fundamentally hard to manage. Rather than caricature, it sorts programmers along many dimensions (client/server/database/web; architects/systems programmers/app builders; cowboys/farmers/heroes/introverts/cynics/jerks) to uncover team dynamics and motivational principles. Ron (and co-author Mickey Mantle) go to some length to separate programming from more manageable engineering disciplines: Programming as a serious profession…

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Webinar: Agile Product Management Essentials for Project Managers

PMI’s Agile Community of Practice is one its largest subgroups, with more than 20,000 members. They are hosting a Sept 13th webinar with Rich Mironov on “Agile Product Management Essentials for Project Managers.” Registration requires PMI membership, session starts Noon PT.

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Strategically Clogged Backlogs

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Among the urgent calls from software teams to me for interim product leadership is a variety that I call “systemic product failure” or “strategically clogged backlog.” I dealt with this twice in 2011, so it’s worth describing for other product folks: sh*t isn’t getting done, product managers are drowning (or have been let go), and engineering is dangerously disconnected from internal stakeholders and customers. Software isn’t shipping, and backlogs are growing. This may not look like a product management breakdown, but it really is… and identifying its organizational/structural roots is key to turning the situation around. If you’re moving to a new product team within your company, or joining a new company that lacks strong product management, watch for systemic…

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Video: Agile Product Mgmt challenges

The second video (of five) in Tolpagorni‘s product leadership series: Magnus Billgren and Rich Mironov talk about strategic product management challenges in agile organizations: the need for roadmaps, strong market input, and the increased (but very valuable!) additional work load for product managers. Recorded in March 2012 during Produktledardagen.

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StartUP SF: Defining Product Management

I was pleased to lead the discussion at the StartUP Product Talk on 16 May at Atlassian‘s SF offices, hosted by #ProdMgmtTalk‘s Cindy Solomon and Atlassian PM Nick Muldoon.  About 45 people networked, ate pizza, and joined an energetic discussion.

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Measuring Product Managers (in Swedish or English)

I’m back from a week of product management workshops and seminars in Sweden, including a Product Leadership event hosted by Tolpagorni’s Magnus Billgren. In a half-dozen discussions with the heads of product management groups, I was struck by how familiar their concerns are.  We could have been in Sunnyvale rather than in Stockholm.  Topics that came up repeatedly: What metrics do we use for evaluating product managers, and how can we tell if they are doing a good job?   Are there PM KPIs*? Our agile development teams tell us that roadmaps are no longer needed, but our customers and sales teams still demand firm commitments.

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Stockholm Product Leadership Days

Stockholm’s third annual Product Leadership Days (“Produktledardagen“) was held on March 22-23, drawing more than 60 product management professionals and technologists from Sweden and northern Europe. (Agenda in Swedish.)  This year’s focus was on sustainable profitability for B2B tech companies.  

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How Agile Changes (and Doesn’t Change) What Product Managers Do

Rich Mironov led a November 18th session on agile product management for the Norcal BMA. What: “How Agile Changes (and Doesn’t Change) What Product Managers Do” Who: Norcal BMA (Northern California Business Marketing Association) When: Nov 18th, 830AM – 10AM Where: Scott’s Seafood, Palo Alto CA

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A Journey of 1000 Miles is Still 1000 Miles Long

Planning to improve is good, but actually improving is better. Your backlog still needs to be cleared up one item at a time, however.

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