• Q: I have been offered a senior leadership role, but part of me feels I still haven’t proven myself with any actual company outcomes as an individual contributor. Should I take the role, where I’d be fairly hands-off, or spend more time honing my craft? [0:46]

    Q: Is there a way to evaluate an organization before applying? [7:04]

    Q: Do you have any tips for finding a good VP of product for a growth-stage startup? [12:18]

    Melissa Perri on LinkedIn | Twitter

  • Melissa Perri’s guest on this week’s Product Thinking Podcast is Marty Cagan. Marty is a product executive, the Founder and Product Partner of the Silicon Valley Product Group and the author of “Inspired: How to Create Products Customers Love”. He has over two decades experience in the field of product management. Marty joins Melissa to discuss product management and how to become the best product manager you can possibly be.

    Here are some key points you’ll hear Melissa and Marty talk about in this episode:

    The essence of product is how well the team works together to solve problems in ways customers love, but that which also works for the business. [1:31]

    The focus of Marty’s book, Empowered, is helping leadership up their game. If a product team is not performing well, the fault lies with the leaders. [2:58]

    The product leader’s first and main job is to make sure that their product team thrives, and that they do their jobs well. Product managers should be encouraging and coaching their teams, and inspiring them so that they can set up their teams for success. [4:23]

    “Product teams are only as good as their product managers...if those product managers are not good, it all falls apart and then it doesn't matter how much singing and dancing that product leader can do with the other executives if he or she can't deliver results,” Marty tells Melissa.  [8:00]

    What causes organizations to use tactics that only focus on cost reduction. [13:28]

    The advice Marty gives to clients on what they can do to change their organizations. [17:38]

    Becoming a great product manager is about learning from, and being coached by someone who’s dedicated to developing and coaching you. [22:17]

    How to know which organizations will be willing to train you and how to find a product leader who is going to put in the time and effort to show you the ropes. [24:30]

    Product leaders hire based on a person’s potential. It’s not about an academic qualification but more of a belief in the person’s ability to reach where product leaders think it can be. [27:22]

    What organizations should be doing to help bring their less tech savvy employees up to speed, for the benefit of their product teams. [30:28]

    One of the biggest issues surrounding product management. [34:59]

    The ten keys to successful transformation. [40:38]

    Marty Cagan | LinkedIn | Twitter
    Silicon Valley Product Group

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  • Melissa Perri’s guest on this week’s Product Thinking Podcast is Amy Radin. Amy is a growth advisor and problem solver for FinTech and MarTech businesses. She has spent over two decades in the marketing, digital, and innovation sector and is currently a member of the Fast Company executive board. Amy joins Melissa to discuss implementing digital transformation in our organizations through relationships.

    Here are some key points you’ll hear Melissa and Amy talk about in this episode:

    Amy’s professional background and how she got into digital transformation. [1:29]

    You can’t solve new problems with old tools. Helping your organization feel comfortable and embrace a new way of doing processes is key. [6:16]

    It is important to build relationships with the influencers and decision-makers within an organization when you are seeking to implement digital transformation. Get a clear understanding of what success means to them. Once they believe that your first priority is to make them successful, you will win their trust and support. [9:01]

    When building organizational teams, there is no one-size-fits-all. You have to build on what exists within the organization at the moment as well as acknowledge that there are elements of culture that affect the organizational structure. [14:53]

    If employees are unable to adapt to new realities of change in their organizations, leaders have to ask themselves if they’ve given them enough opportunity to build new skills. [17:57]

    “You need to build a very diverse team when you're building change...it’s internal and external people who are bringing different life experiences, different backgrounds. You need diversity to solve hard problems,” Amy stresses. [19:49]

    We must focus on developing real empathy and deep understanding of our customers’ needs and bring this insight to the organization in a way they will find compelling. [24:32]

    How Amy gets her teams to take initiative. [24:45]

    Even on the worst days we have to maintain a sense of optimism and believe that we will get there. [30:22]

    “You have to look for the actions and behaviors that the organization and the leadership have done either at the organization, or in their prior roles that indicate they understand that you have a common expectation of what transformation and change means and what it takes,” Amy remarks. [35:34]

    The behavioral evidence Amy looks for that tells her that the company is ready for transformation. [38:14]

    Amy Radin | LinkedIn | Twitter

  • In this Dear Melissa segment, Melissa answers a subscriber’s question about ‘soft skills’ and why they are equally as important as hard skills.

    Q: What would you say to someone who's concerned about their assertiveness? [00:51]

    Q: What resources or experiences would you recommend for people who recognize the need for hard skills as part of product, but who would intentionally like to cultivate these soft skills (empathy, self-awareness, and emotional intelligence) as well? [9:06]

    Q: What would you recommend a team of product managers to do if they’re headed by a CTO who does not have time for the team, or product management know-how? Can a product team ever be successful if they are led by someone who doesn’t seem to have organizational power? [14:03]

    Going to the C-suite yourselves may not be the option, but how do you surface up the problem? If it's a good C-suite they should start to see that this is an issue because the team might not be performing the way that they actually expected to be. I think you can go to the C-suite to have conversations about your individual products, not necessarily the same product leader but helps surface up what good looks like. [15:48]

    Melissa Perri on LinkedIn | Twitter

  • Melissa Perri’s guest on this week’s Product Thinking Podcast is Kathy Pham. Kathy is a computer scientist, a product management executive, and co-leads the Ethics and Responsible Tech at Mozilla. She also co-founded the Mozilla Fix the Internet Incubator, as well as the Product and Society at Mozilla, which focuses on product management, ethics, and the public interest. Kathy joins Melissa to discuss product ethics.

    Here are some key points you’ll hear Melissa and Kathy talk about in this episode:

    Interesting details about the product management class Kathy teaches at Harvard. [00:47]

    Kathy’s experiences working at The White House, Harvard, and in product management. [5:52]

    Ethics and its implications for product management. [12:58]

    Accessibility and security are important and need to be integrated into a product from the very beginning. [15:48]

    When designing products for an inclusive audience, you have to take into consideration the team culture that is in place and build out those personas to be as inclusive as possible. “I think it's important to build into the culture knowing that the moment something is built it's really hard to reverse,” Kathy tells Melissa.[19:35]

    How to respond to changes or challenges with your product platform when it happens in another country where no member of your team is from. [23:34]

    As product managers, we need to be listening to our users, and that includes listening to those users who are telling us what we don’t want to hear. It means not condemning or shutting down their feedback by telling them they’re wrong. [28:34]

    Having diverse perspectives within our product teams is very important for the decision-making process. It ensures that the concerns of the target audience are heard and are taken into account. [30:32]

    When the people building our program algorithms make terrible assumptions or have blind spots, they bake into them issues that already exist in the world and just propagate them through code. [38:50]

    Kathy Pham | LinkedIn | Twitter

  • In this Dear Melissa segment, Melissa answers a subscriber’s question about choice architecture and competing priorities between the business and the customer. 

    Q: How do you balance the ethics of choice architecture as a product manager who is responsible for satisfying possible divergent priorities between the business and the customer? What is our duty when priorities may conflict?

    Hear Melissa talk about:

    Choice architecture and dark patterns

    What to do with your priorities conflict with each other

    How ethics in product is vital to how you view your products

    Melissa Perri on LinkedIn | Twitter

  • Melissa Perri’s guest on this week’s Product Thinking Podcast is Matt Wallaert. Matt is a behavioral scientist and a product strategist. He has spent over twenty years applying behavioral sciences to practical problems. He currently holds the position of Executive Director of Behavioral Science at Frog, a Capgemini Company, where he helps organizations build their own behavioral science capabilities. 

    Here are some key points you’ll hear Melissa and Matt talk about in this episode:

    Behavior change can be applied across many disciplines but its natural home is product. The point of product is to change behavior. [1:09]

    How Matt got interested in the world of behavioral science. [3:07]

    What it means to have actual outcomes for customers and how behavioral science can be used to point out what those outcomes should look like. [8:41]

    When doing behavioral research, segment on behaviors rather than demographics. [9:43]

    Behavioral statements come at the very beginning, and they describe the end. It's calling into being what hasn't yet occurred. [13:08]

    Activating someone means to get them engaged. "If people feel like they're creating business value, they'll be super engaged." [17:53]

    Product leaders need a deep understanding of the human side of product management. [26:08]

    The best product managers are curious people. They want to know how the system fits together and how all the processes within the system work. [30:00]

    How product leaders can determine if a person has cognition, and the relevant questions to ask to find out. [30:38]

    "If you can figure out how to change behavior naturally in the world, I can teach you the science part. I can teach you the process part. I can teach you four stages and competing pressures and all of the tricks and tips and tools that we use to make this work in the modern environment. But you have to want to be that person," Matt says. [35:19]

    "Product people are not status quo people. It's inherently about difference. It's inherently about change." [36:21]

    Matt Wallaert | LinkedIn | Twitter

  • In this Dear Melissa segment, Melissa answers subscribers’ questions about how to use their time wisely, whether they’re trying to support their sales team with a complex product, getting the most out of a customer advisory board, or finding time for discovery work on a Scrum-focused team.

    Q: I'm constantly helping our sales team run demo calls and our account managers onboard and set up new customers. What can I do to empower my team so I can focus on improving our product instead? Have you ever used a dedicated team member to fill this space as a product specialist role? [1:38]

    Q: What am I signing up for when setting up a customer advisory board? What should I do to launch it smoothly and get the most out of it? What risks am I facing? Is this a stupid idea? [9:31]

    Q: Is there a way to make product discovery a process and make time for it, like what scrum does for delivery? [16:28]

    Melissa Perri on LinkedIn | Twitter

  • This week’s guest is C. Todd Lombardo, the VP of Product and Experience at Openly. C. Todd and Melissa discuss product research–a key combination of user research, market research, and analytics–and how product managers can better implement research practices into their organizations.

    Here are some key points you’ll hear Melissa and Todd talk about in this episode:

    The kind of product leadership Todd does, and how he got invested in product management. [1:24]

    The biggest change in product management in the last decade is the legitimacy of position, and product leaders finally having important roles in organizations. [5:40]

    Product research is about gathering information and trying to synthesize it in a meaningful way. [10:48]

    Product managers need to have the ability to go out and speak with customers and do qualitative research. [13:16]

    The mindset of discovery, and how it can contribute to designers and engineers making better decisions which lead to better products and eventually, better outcomes. [18:23]

    Our job as product leaders is to figure out what our customers want. [21:55]

    One of the main rules of product research is to prepare to be wrong and go into [product research] with the intent to prove yourself wrong. “If you can't prove yourself wrong you might be onto something right.” [27:09]

    Always take into account the audience you’re presenting to. Remember that you’re talking to busy executives, so share your conclusions up front so that they don’t miss the main points. [30:30]

    C Todd Lombardo | LinkedIn | Twitter

  • In this Dear Melissa segment, Melissa answers subscribers’ questions about:

    Q: As a CPO, what should I think about when managing disciplines I’m not an expert in? [1:08]

    Q: Do you have any tips on how to set up good 30-60-90 day smart goals as a product manager for a mature startup? [7:00]

    Q: What advice do you have in evaluating next steps in moving on to a career after product management? [14:51]

    Melissa Perri on LinkedIn | Twitter

  • The theme of this week’s Product Thinking Podcast is agile development, and Melissa Perri’s guest this week is Jeff Patton of Jeff Patton & Associates. Jeff is one of the first agile product managers, and his company helps other companies use product and customer- centric thinking to improve their market and the way they work. Jeff and Melissa to discuss agile development in this week’s show, including what’s currently going wrong with it.

    Here are some key points you’ll hear Melissa and Jeff talk about in this episode:

    How both Jeff and Melissa got into agile development. [01:10]

    The issues agile development was created to mitigate. [7:01]

    How agile development was understood when it was first created. [14:15]

    The difference between agile development now and agile development in the past is understanding what an outcome is. “[Product] outcome is measured by whether the customers and users see you try and use it, and keep using it,” Jeff tells Melissa. [14:51]

    Product development is about prototyping, experimenting, and spending time with customers. [19:12]

    Three things you should never not do in agile development. [21:54]

    Companies are now conducting more business via technology which requires them to become more agile. However, they’re not adopting the agile manifesto in the right way. [30:55]

    Jeff hopes that agile development will morph and become what it needs to be in the future. [39:09]

    Jeff Patton | LinkedIn | Twitter
    Jeff Patton & Associates

  • In this Dear Melissa segment, Melissa answers subscribers’ questions about applying product practices to nonprofit companies and customer engagement and debunks myths about MVPs.

    Q: How applicable are product best practices and principles outside of for-profit SAAS companies? [1:08]

    Q: Do you have any suggestions on how we can encourage our users to experiment with the new payment method our company introduced? [6:32]

    Q: How do I advocate for a more iterative and incremental approach to new product releases and product updates, as opposed to big bang releases? [10:34]

    Melissa Perri on LinkedIn | Twitter

  • The theme of this week’s Product Thinking Podcast is culture, and Melissa Perri’s guest is Gibson Biddle, author of the “Ask Gib” product newsletter. Gibson is dedicated to teaching product strategy and culture both in and outside of the classroom. He joins Melissa to discuss the importance of having a good organizational culture, and how that affects strategy.

    Here are some key points you’ll hear Melissa and Gibson talk about in this episode:

    The product leader’s job is to delight customers in hard-to-copy, margin-enhancing ways (DHM). [3:18]

    How Netflix developed their high-level strategy for personalization. [8:47]

    Gibson’s experience with managing the product team as VP of Product Management at Netflix. Every product leader who worked for him was expected to have clear, defined strategies for their teams. [12:39]

    The failure of Project Griffin. [20:37]

    Building a culture where everyone is on the same page about making the best choices for the business is difficult, but not impossible. One key practice is context over control; ensure that everyone understands the context that the business is operating in. [25:54]

    “At the end of the day, people are not there forever but the culture is; the culture describes the [company’s] values and the values describe the skills and behaviors of everyone in the building,” Gibson tells Melissa. “At our quarterly meetings, we would discuss strategy, but we would also learn to form good judgment. This is what the culture is about; helping individuals make great decisions about products.” [29:41]

    "Culture is all about who you hire… who you promote- every time someone was promoted to director or VP there was a celebration because it was about them being a culture carrier, them living the Netflix culture. And [when you would] let people go, they might demonstrate amazing results, but they were living outside of Netflix's values,” Gibson shares. [38:46]

    Strategy is important when starting a product organization, but it’s ok if half of it fails. It’s a process and a bunch of hypotheses that you need to learn from. [43:46]

    Gibson Biddle on LinkedIn | Twitter

  • In this Dear Melissa segment, Melissa answers subscribers’ questions about the design and strategy in building the best product teams.

    Q: Is dividing teams to generate results in different strategies a wise decision? If so, how should they communicate with each other? If not, what is the right way to organize teams? [00:47]

    Q: Are there any best practices in organizing digital products, future teams, and squads? How do you coordinate a backlog of all the products that are connected in an ecosystem of digital products? [4:53]

    Q: How do you rightsize your product teams and value streams when the typical software system can be huge with small components? [9:41]

    Melissa Perri on LinkedIn | Twitter

  • The theme of this week’s Product Thinking Podcast is transformation, and Melissa Perri’s guest this week is Brian Bhuta, Chief Product Officer at Signify Health. Brian is an experienced product leader and is passionate about establishing and scaling product management organizations in an agile environment. He joins Melissa to discuss transformations and product management from an inside perspective.

    Here are some key points you’ll hear Melissa and Brian talk about in this episode:

    How Brian and Melissa both got into product transformation. [1:50]

    The raw material of transformation is people who are passionate about wanting to do better on a regular basis. [07:09]

    Employees and customers want a bold vision, and not a boring one. [10:26]

    Consider and acknowledge that there are people who have invested more into the company than you have. A leader who has the goal of product transformation, but who has a mindset that they’re going to “save” or “fix” the company, is doomed to alienate the people who have helped build the company to where it is. [14:19]

    We have to build a relationship with our team and the people we are now in charge of. “You’re never gonna be able to work with someone if you don’t understand them,” Brain tells Melissa. [22:24]

    An executive who sees themself as part of the team will make great steps towards transformation and help the company move towards a great workplace culture. [30:54]

    When selling a product we need to consider if the product and the market are right. We also need to make sure that we are not promising too many things to our customers. [46:11]

    Melissa and Brian talk about building relationships as both sales and product leaders, and building trust internally. [47:37]

    Once you build a foundation of trust you can deal with any subsequent backlash or friction that may arise as systems begin to change. [52:07]

    Brian Bhuta | LinkedIn, Twitter

  • In this Dear Melissa segment, Melissa answers subscribers’ questions about product teams with unequipped product leaders, ineffective usage of data, and killing products.
    Q: Have you come across situations in your career as a product manager where you were under the authority of people with no background in product management? How would you recommend I bring my concern about this to my leadership without coming across as arrogant? [1:08]

    Q: My organization struggles to use data effectively. What are some ways to convey the importance of data to leadership? And what are some achievable milestones that can be acquired to prove the value of investing in data? [9:14]

    Q: How can I reframe the decision to kill products so that everyone can understand them? [13:32]

    Melissa Perri on LinkedIn | Twitter

  • Melissa Perri welcomes Ben Foster - Chief Product Officer at Whoop and author of Building What Matters: Delivering Key Outcomes with Vision-Led Product Management - to this week’s Product Thinking Podcast. Ben is an experienced product leader who teaches the value of vision to help us craft the right strategy and achieve our desired outcomes. He joins Melissa to discuss the framework he details in his book and what makes a great vision.

    Here are some key points you’ll hear Melissa and Ben talk about in this episode:

    Ben and Melissa swap stories of how they “accidentally” got into product management. [2:31]

    Ben’s book describes what causes some companies to struggle with product management, as well as what makes other companies excel. It also features recommendations for product leaders. [9:10]

    Vision-led product management, Ben tells Melissa, is “being definitive about what the value of your product is going to be, for whom you're going to provide that value, where the differentiation is going to lie, ...all these major components of the product vision.” [10:12]

    Successful companies see their profits as a byproduct of the value they provide for their customers. Defining what success looks like to customers involves deep research into who your customers are, what motivates them, who else can solve their problem, and what would make them choose you and stay with you. “As you map that out,” Ben remarks, “then you can make sure that everybody on the product team is rowing in the same direction towards actually realizing that vision.” [11:35]

    Melissa asks Ben to talk about how he implemented his vision-led product management framework at Go Canvas. [20:02]

    Melissa and Ben talk about the steps in the customer journey. [22:17]

    “The reason that people actually buy is because of the performance things; the reason they continue to buy is because of the delight,” Ben emphasizes. [27:55]

    Melissa asks Ben, “What else do you see [as] the differentiators between companies that do product management well and companies that don't?” Ben responds, “One of the key elements for me is they understand the connectedness between value for their customers and value for their business.” [32:33]

    Ben and Melissa discuss how to convince the CEO that not every opportunity should be pursued. [42:26]

    Ben Foster on LinkedIn
    Building What Matters: Delivering Key Outcomes with Vision-Led Product Management

  • In this Dear Melissa segment, Melissa answers subscribers’ questions about pragmatic versus ideal product management, internal product management, and determining how to build products for a two-sided marketplace. 

    Q: Do you think there should be a difference between ideal product management and pragmatic product management? [0:59]

    Q: What kind of metrics are you looking at when customer-based internal users are forced to use the software? There's no LTV, CAC, revenue models, or any of the normal user metrics in B2C or B2B. [7:38]

    Q: We're building a product for renters, our end users, and landlords, our customers. I'm struggling with prioritizing whose problems to solve first. Is it better to build for our paying customer first, or do we build as fast as possible for renters but risk more turnover with the landlords? [14:03]

    Melissa Perri on LinkedIn | Twitter

  • Oji Udezue is the Chief Product Officer at Parsible and was formerly the VP of Product at Calendly. Melissa Perri describes him as “one of the best product leaders I have ever met.” His extensive experience in both B2B and B2C companies, including Microsoft and Atlassian, has given him insight into how to set strategy, even in companies where there is none. He joins Melissa to talk about what it takes to implement a product-led strategy, and how to influence a culture shift in your organization.

    Here are some key points from their discussion:

    Oji defines being product-led as “increasing customer focus… It means infusing the entire company with this idea that it's more efficient for everyone… to really execute on a really great product that pulls itself forward. And if you can do that then your ability to make profit actually increases…” [2:40]

    The role of the CPO is to understand the company goals, vision, and mission and track an efficient product course to achieve that. The CPO’s biggest leverage is deciding what to invest in and what not to, Oji says. [6:13]

    A draft strategy is a lightning rod: it gets the discussion started. Oji uses the VMSO (vision, mission, strategies, objectives) framework to draft strategy. Melissa asks him to advise product leaders who want to start drafting a strategy. He urges them to write it down and then socialize it. He also emphasizes that your draft strategy should be good: people should see wisdom and truth in it. [13:10]

    Oji predicts that all enterprise companies will become B2C in 10 years. [22:05]

    Melissa asks what is product-led growth. Oji defines the term and explains what it takes: a good product with great market fit, a good brand, good word of mouth and virality. [27:02]

    You have to expand your addressable market constantly to stay in the game. [30:38]

    Oji and Melissa discuss how product leaders can help change their company culture. [33:00]

    Oji Udezue on LinkedIn | Twitter | Medium

  • In this Dear Melissa episode, Melissa answers subscribers’ questions about product transformation.

    Q1: As the leader of a new product function initiative, what steps can I take to earn the CEO’s trust and create a company culture that embraces an outcome-driven and product-lead mindset? [2:07]

    Q2: How can I ensure my company is approaching product transformation in the right way? [7:31]

    Q3: How long does it take a strong product manager (junior to intermediate level) to make some positive impact in a company that lacks a good product culture? Should they stick around if there are no big positive changes after a year, or should they move on to try and learn elsewhere? [15:18]

    Melissa Perri on LinkedIn | Twitter