A trip to London resulted in a new project. And working out how we kick projects off, how we decide if we want to do them and if we are going to do them what we want to achieve and what the stakeholders want.
What did you experiment with?
There are various options on what the strategy could be and how we get there so I did a SWOT analysis on each one to get my thoughts together. As soon as I’d done it I found that I was muddling up the what and the how and also the feedback was that I’d baked some big assumptions into them. So they moved the conversation forward, just not in the direction I was expecting.
What did you enjoy?
I’ve enjoyed most of this week. On Monday evening, after a good chat about the direction of the team, someone asked if I was in the office tomorrow. It felt really worthwhile to go in, so I did. It was great to meet the team face to face, but also our Director popped in to see us for half an hour and mentioned a new project. The team seems excited to take it on. I was glad I was there to hear it as they did, I’ve spent a big chunk of this week discussing the project:
- asking if we should do it
- finding out what the stakeholders want from it
- working out how we do it
- working out what needs to be done if we do take it on
I hope that this process will become more standardised as we do it more. I’ve had really positive feedback about how I’ve approached it this time.
I met with more people from other teams (like other product people and a project team who have just rolled off). It reminds me how much I like meeting new people and hearing their opinions.
I even managed to put some advice someone gave me into action already. They said to find projects that stakeholders really want but don’t have the expertise to deliver and help them deliver that rather than creating new projects where you have to create momentum.
I even enjoyed the long commute, I had lots of time to think.
While I was in the office there was a small product that we’re experimenting with and are going to demo at an event next week. I spent a little bit of time sketching out the user flow. It was cool to just get some thoughts down and prompt further conversation.
Deciding what to do
When I arrived (last week) it seemed to me that the project the team was working on was coming to a natural end, but they were still working on it without much clarity on why or where it was going. So I started asking questions and suggesting it might be time to summarise what we’ve learned and make an active decision whether to carry on rather than just carrying on because it’s there. That has gone down well and I’m gathering the feedback so we can learn from it and make that decision.
What was hard?
I’m struggling with knowing what are the right questions for a product manager to ask rather than the really big questions a service designer asks. I think both are important, but this team is about delivering proof of concept products, so they currently assume they don’t need to understand the wider context as much. I’m still working that out.
What did you learn?
I’m learning loads about how to put together a strategy. It’s quite a messy process of listening to what different people think you should be doing. At the moment I’m trying to get it down and then play it back and say things like: So we want to focus on xx. To narrow down the focus.
At the moment we need:
- The long-term change we want to see
- Clarity on short-term projects that will demonstrate we have the credibility to deliver the long term
- How that turns into a decision on projects (whether we take them on and what we want to achieve by doing them)
Who did you talk to outside of your organisation?
I reached out to some people to help the team with the design. With the new project coming on and the fact we don’t have any design system, look and feel, or designers to design that stuff I need support. So I’ve spoken to a couple of agencies and have options on how we approach this. Now we need to work out what my brief will be.
I also reached out to someone who I used to work with who had recommended The Culture Code to say thank you, both for the book recommendation also because I could see how they’d put it into practice and made my last workplace one of the best cultures I’ve ever worked in I’m hoping to have a chat with them soon to discuss it and the fact that they’ve done a similar job to what I’m doing now. To see if they have any advice for me.
What would you have liked to do more of?
The two obvious options are time and clarity, but I think I was pretty efficient with my time and I’m doing a decent job of getting the important stuff done and being clear that I’m not doing the rest. I’ve got a first draft of my objectives and I’m going to share them with relevant people next week and then share them with the team. I feel proud that I’ve got something down and quite happy with how focused they are.
On the clarity point I think half of the fun is working that out with the team so I’m happy for it to come as quickly as it comes.
Questions from my son
I had to take my son to an appointment this week (it was great to be able to finish at 3 to take him). On the drive he asked me two questions:
What do you like about your job?
I like convincing people that there are better ways to do things
What would you change about your job?
I couldn’t think of much, because if I could magically make everyone do things how I think they should be done, or do things better, where would the fun be?
All of that is reliant on the culture of course. If they are willing to listen it’s good, if they won’t listen then that would be what I’d change.
Questions from a product network
I was signing up for a meet-up because I was thinking of going to this event How to create product-centric organisations (I can’t go in the end). As part of the sign up, they asked some questions. I thought I’d share my answers (I wrote them very quickly because I just wanted access to the event) but I’d be interested to hear what others think of them.
What makes a good Product person?
Thinking about what it should do and how we test the riskiest things first to make sure it does what it needs to do.
What excites you about Product Management?
Bringing structure to how things are developed.
What do you think makes a poor Product person?
Thinking only about features.
What do you wish you could have changed?
HR stuff takes longer than I’d expected and I’d rather spend that time thinking about the core of my job.
What are you looking forward to next week?
I’m heading to London for more time with the team. I’m also booked to go to a couple of events, two that my wider team is putting on and one that a colleague is speaking at in the evening.
I also want to see what progress we can make with the strategy and see how the new project kicks off.
Sharing my objectives and getting feedback on them.
What are you reading?
I’ve ordered two new books this week. One based on a recommendation from this blog post Book Review: The Really Good Idea Test — Julia Shalet
I ordered StrengthsFinder 2.0: A New and Upgraded Edition of the Online Test from Gallup, after listening to a Carla Miller’s podcast Influence & Impact for Female Leaders. The episode I listened to was Developing your career with Fay Wallis
My pre ordered copy of The Service Organization by Kate Tarling also arrived this week.
I really need to get some reading done with 3 new books arriving in one week!
What I’ve actually read is a little tiny bit of my bookclub book Asylum Road by Olivia Sudjic
These notes were written on Sunday evening while the family was catching up on Match of the Day.