Setting up a product practice part 3

Following part 1 and part 2 of this series which detailed my reflections on how we might set up a product practice, this post gives insight into the workshop I ran with the team. Below is a breakdown of the activities we went through

Logistics

  • 4 hours (2 sessions of 2h)
  • 1 facilitator – yours truly
  • 7 product managers 
  • Miro for the workshop
  • Microsoft Teams for communicating

Part 1: Review and discuss the problems

In the first exercise, I confronted the PMs with four problems I had identified (see part 1). I added a description of the problem and asked them:

  • Reactions? Do you agree? Disagree? Have nuance to add?
  • What would the problem look like if it was 100x bigger?
  • What would the problem look like if it was 100x smaller?
Example of the problem ‘delivery’ on the Miro board

After everyone had reviewed the problems, we read the post-its and discussed them.

To be transparent, we didn’t go into the answers of what the problems look like if they were 100x bigger or 100x smaller. Time was ticking, and the real value of these questions was for each person to really think through the problem, less in what the actual answers were.

Based on the critiques, we changed the problems and reframed them. It was an interesting debate, that led us to discuss which problem was the source of which other problem. Together, we came up with a refreshed list of problems.

How might we follow an evidence-based strategy for our products so that we have a clear idea as to why we are doing what we are doing and can say no to things that don’t fit with our strategy?

How might we get more clarity on the role of product manager and how we should work with others so that we can more easily work with them?

How might we provide other teams in our department with more visibility over what we are doing so that we don’t duplicate work/move in opposite directions and so that we build trust?

How could we work in more consistent ways as product managers so that others know what to expect from us?

The problems we agreed upon rephrased as opportunities.

I was thrilled by the thorough critique of the initial problems I had identified and overjoyed that we were able to reframe them into problems we all understood and agreed.

There’s nothing as satisfying as being disagreed with and then finding common ground.

Part 2: Review the PM toolkit

As the first exercise took the entire first session, we started exercise 2 with a clear head 2 days later.

I presented the PM toolkit I had adapted from Matt LeMay’s CORE framework for product management skills. I asked everyone for their comments, questions and disagreements. I also asked what skill gaps each of us identified for themselves. 

Once everyone had time to review and reflect we discussed each reaction. This helped us get on a similar page as to what product management is to us. You can read more about the details of this section in the second part of this series of posts.

The PM toolkit on the Miro board

Part 3: How could product practice and skills answer some of the organisation’s most pressing problems?

We had about 30 minutes for the last exercise, but it was definitely manageable. With a problem on each row, we discussed what we could do:

  • Immediately
  • In the next month
  • In the next year
The roadmap structure

In a very short time, and following the reflections from the previous two exercises, we built a roadmap for the next year for our team to improve their product practice in a way that makes most sense to the organisation.

Next steps

The next step is going to be following this roadmap and regularly checking in. The biggest risk I foresee is losing momentum, as everyday work and burning platforms may take over our headspace. Though I hope the public accountability I set through blogging will keep me focussed. Let’s see!

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