July 5, 2017
5 Key Takeaways from Our First Product Mindset Workshop
Sometimes, an idea or method is so ingrained in your company culture, it can be easy to forget it's not really “the norm.” It’s the classic “can’t see the forest through the trees” analogy. While facilitating 3Pillar’s first public Product Mindset workshop, I realized that that’s exactly where I was - lost in the trees. For me, the Product Mindset has become an unconscious way of working, but at the workshop I realized that’s not the case for everyone and people may need a little help to get there.
After taking some time to reflect on what made the workshop valuable, 5 observations stood out to me as key takeaways.
A Fundamental Disconnect
There is a fundamental disconnect between the business strategists of the organization and the boots on the ground executing the strategy.
During and after the workshop I heard from practitioners, “Man, I wish my xyz was here to listen to this message.” The leaders in the room had a similar sentiment: “This was a great wakeup call for me to understand the position my team is in when I ask them for an awesome new feature” (okay, I may be paraphrasing a little).
In order to create great products that meet the needs of your business and your users, everyone needs to be aligned on what a great product actually looks like. Leadership must understand how their decisions impact their teams, and the teams need to understand how to help their leadership achieve their goals. Communication both up and down the chain must be open and focused on what the business outcomes are.
People crave a space where they can be with like minds and have creative conversations.
The crowd at the first workshop ranged from everyday practitioners to C-level executives. This provided a unique opportunity to talk to others who face similar challenges when trying to get a product to market, but could offer a new perspective. There was real idea sharing going on, so much so that it was sometimes tricky to pull everyone back to center! Those conversations continued through lunch and well into the happy hour afterwards. They were really excited to interact and share with people just like them (and also vastly different from them).
We received a lot of feedback on the value of these conversations. The attendees learned that we’re more alike than different in the product world, and the time they spent commiserating and inspiring one another led to real insight and validation within their own businesses.
A Need for More Than Agile Alone
There is a hunger in the market for a better way - Agile alone is just not cutting it anymore.
Many of the attendees were Agile practitioners that have found the same things we did - simply “being Agile” is not enough to make great products. We focus too much on the “Agile” and forget about the “value” part of the equation. Success is measured by story points and escaped defects rather than meeting business value for your users.
This output-based mentality affects all types of development methodologies - it’s not unique to Agile. The Waterfall methodology is risk based - we focus on mitigating risk at every turn but neglect to include the value discussion in our requirements. In order to transform your teams, you need to shift your focus from outputs for the sake of outputs to results rooted in business value to your organization and users.
Committed Relationships with Roadmaps
People love their roadmaps!
One aspect of the Product Mindset we discussed in the workshop is that we don’t often put a heavy focus on roadmaps. Little did we know that this stance would open Pandora’s Box! Many people in the room were very committed to their roadmaps. A knee-jerk reaction inspired a fundamental conversation around the purpose and place of a roadmap, but emphasized the previously mentioned issue of disconnect. Leadership demands hard dates on when a feature will be delivered (and how much it’s going to cost) while the boots on the ground work in a way that is more flexible and adaptive to their users’ input.
Roadmaps are necessary to a degree, but being more flexible is a benefit to everybody. Leadership needs to understand that any date practitioners/product managers/insert title here give you will (most likely) change, but by leveraging Agile principles and the 3 core values of Product Mindset, you’ll be well informed and confident that any changes are being done in the best interest of building a product that meets the defined outcomes.
Shifting the Culture is Scary
The cultural shift required to embrace a Product Mindset scares people.
One of the most frequently asked questions at this workshop was, “How were you able to inject the Product Mindset into the DNA of your organization?”. Truth be told, it began with our CEO, David; however, once he launched the boat, he stepped back and watched it float. He supported us and made suggestions, but let the concepts take hold organically.
A core function of embracing a Product Mindset as an organization is to involve the people in the process. Keep an open line of communication and involve those who will be utilizing it the most. Some of the key pieces of our framework came from software engineers on the ground that noticed a gap and raised their own suggestions.
Change is scary and does not come easy, but it can be achieved with the right level of support (and sometimes that means laying the foundation and letting others build the house).
I can honestly say that one of the biggest rewards of the workshop was that I learned as much from the attendees in the room as (I hope) they learned from me. It was exciting to hear the conversations between attendees and watch the lightbulbs go off and the “ah-ha!” moments take hold.
If you believe you (or a friend, colleague, or teammate) would benefit from attending one of 3Pillar’s Product Mindset Workshops, I have great news! Our next event will be Friday, August 25th and registration is now open so you can claim your spot today. We hope to see you there!