One of my VP Product coachees raised a topic that comes up often: “I want to become a much better coach for my reports, both around product issues and people management. How do I ask powerful questions to lead my team through that rather than giving the answer?”

This is a hard (and interesting) question because it mixes subject expertise with management styles and essential soft skills. Content critiques alongside motivation and organizational hierarchy.

I like to start by unpacking and understanding our coaching goals. Typically this is about improved delegation: our goal as product leaders should be to delegate…


Every week, I talk with CEOs who tell me they want to speed up innovation. In fact, they want to schedule it. Recently a product leader shared with me an OKR to ship one major innovation each quarter, measured as “users will give each innovative feature a top rating.”

This frustrates me deeply, but I try to restrain myself and sympathize with CEOs. Instead of getting indignant or overly academic, let’s unpack what various folks MEAN by innovation, and then come back to why “scheduling innovation” doesn’t make much sense.

Stakeholder by stakeholder …

  • When we lose a deal, the…


The problem of prioritization comes up in many of my coaching discussions with product leaders, and in almost every product forum. We want it to be a trivial mechanical process: pick a metric (usually current revenue), estimate ROI for the entire backlog, then do whatever scores highest. But that very rarely works in practice. Prioritization fits into a larger strategic and organizational framework.

Some frequent symptoms:

  • Requests for a magical universal prioritization spreadsheet. …


I talk with CPOs/VPs of Product almost every day. And with CTOs/VPs of Engineering every week. A frequent topic is how to collaborate and support each other — even as we sometimes need to raise uncomfortable issues. My starting point is always that VPs of Product and Engineering need to be fully aligned in public, aka “shoulder to shoulder.”

At most (tech) companies, product managers are more than transmitters of requirements or sales demands. More than checklist completers. If we’re living up to our potential, we have a unique birds-eye view of where customer value meets great technology. And we…


automobile speedometer
automobile speedometer

Half of the calls I get from CEOs include requests for Product Management to boost productivity in Engineering (aka Development aka Makers). To ship more stuff, faster. To hit more roadmap dates. To reduce some fictitious cost-per-feature financial goal. To get more for less.

This reflects confusion about what product managers do (and how we really add value), and often poor role definition where product managers are also project/program managers or engineering leads. It also signals a lack of trust between the executive team and the development organization: “how do I know I’m getting my money’s worth out of this…


I talk with lots of executives from the go-to-market side of the house who think that building serious software is as easy — and easily estimatable — as building a fence. Would that it were so.

One destructive side effect of this misunderstanding can be repeatedly changing the #1 top priority part-way through development, before there’s much to show the world but after spending significant discovery/design/architecture/development time on the previous #1 top priority. As the leadership team gets tired of interim progress reports and longer-than-expected delivery dates, they lose heart and lose trust in the “maker” side of the company…


After years of struggle, I’m advising all of my clients and product leader coachees to stop using the term “MVP”. Not to stop doing validation, discovery, prototyping or experiments they may associate that that acronym, but to remove the label from all of their docs and presentations and talks. To delete the letters MVP from roadmaps and product charters. To banish it from their vocabularies, not let it cross their lips. Here’s why…

Almost without fail, I find that the “maker” side of software companies (developers, designers, product folks, DevOps, tech writers…) and the “go-to-market” side of software companies (sales…


Over the last three decades, across 10 full-time jobs and 150 consulting clients, I’ve headed up product teams 18 times (mostly as ) and helped another dozen companies choose their Head of Product. That may be the record for anyone other than search professionals. Here are some patterns I’ve seen in picking successful Heads of Product.

Failure modes that often come up:

  • Exec teams don’t know what Heads of Product do, or want someone who will “make development more efficient”
  • They don’t value experience running product management teams. Instead, they overweight narrow technical or market segment familiarity
  • Each department wants…


Last week, I had three separate conversations with VPs of Product about business cases… initially framed as “do you have a template we should use so that our team can prioritize big investments?” Unpacking this, it became clear that their product teams wanted to jump straight into generating numbers and spreadsheets to present to executives, but were unclear about the highest-level objectives of their various investments. In fact, their project stacks included radically different items that were hard to compare one-to-one. …


I’ve been following Nandini Jammi’s truth-affirming work at Sleeping Giants for the last four years, which is suddenly now in the mainstream with support of like-minded social action organizations and a rebellion of Facebook advertisers. With her co-founder Claire Atkin, she has just launched a for-profit company [Check My Ads] to help advertisers audit their online placements as well as improve marketing efficiency. This issue is central to many recent tech/product conversations, so I’ve stepped out of my normal first-person writing to share this interview.

[Rich Mironov]:
First, tell me the Sleeping Giants origin story and mission…

[Nandini Jammi]:
Sleeping…

Rich Mironov

Tech start-up veteran, smokejumper CPO/product management VP, writer, coach for product leaders, analogy wrangler, product camp founder.

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