Product Coaching and “Show, Don’t Tell”

“Let’s do this one together”
  • “We have 20 product managers but don’t yet have a product management process. Do you have a fully documented end-to-end process that we can implement here?”
  • “Which 3-day class will teach our new product folks everything they need to know, including ‘best practices’ and strategy and stakeholder management?”
  • “We’re inspired to be product-led. How do we transform our downtrodden IT order-takers into empowered strategic product leaders — quickly, inexpensively, and with no changes to the rest of the organization?”

“Show, Not Tell”

Smaller Coachable Learning Areas

  • Thumbnail business cases . Novices can find 100-page business case templates and 3-line spreadsheets, but making these useful to the right audience at the right level of detail is hard. We can save them weeks of trial-and-error by clarifying our intent and helping on the first 3 or 4.
  • Saying NO to executives and internal stakeholders and customers. Every product manager has 10x (or 50x) more requests and demands than their teams can ever fulfill . So we turn down requests every hour of the day. But gracefully saying NO to VPs and CEOs is a learned skill. And letting ourselves be cast as the bad guys can be demoralizing. I like to periodically run whole-product-team exercises where we take turns role-playing the indignant stakeholder with unrealistic demands. We de-stigmatize the conversation, trade polite versions of “not in your lifetime,” share the pain, laugh a little. Next time, we each report on what worked/didn’t work. We build empathy for stakeholders without giving them everything they want.
  • EOL planning. There are decent blog posts on end-of-lifing a product , but none of them paint all of the customer push-back, internal politics, CEO interventions, and organizational forgetfulness of a real EOL. And many PdMs go their whole career without sunsetting a product. This is hard, unpopular, exhausting, and high risk. The benefits can seem theoretical. Yet we often throw this as a side assignment to some unlucky rookie. “Can you pull together an EOL plan for Friday’s exec staff meeting?” Much better if someone on the team has done a few EOLs, can share templates and war stories, and support our newcomer.
  • Concept mapping. I love the Business Model Canvas that Alex Osterwalder pioneered. But it’s not about filling in the boxes — it’s about using the canvas as an organizing tool for hard thinking, risk identification, sorting customers from partners, and economic inquiry. Someone who’s already put canvases to use would be a great asset to the team

Sound Byte

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

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Rich Mironov

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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