Give Your Team the Power So You Can Win

team-spirit-1To be a disruptive force in an existing market you have to be nimble, quick, and lean. One of your primary advantages over the existing competition is your agility. The behemoths in your space have lots of employees, complex organization charts, and they hold endless meetings to make simple decisions.

You and your team are small. You are able to quickly respond to customer’s feedback and expectations. When a problem arises, you don’t have to call a review committee. You simply analyze the problem, formulate a solution, and execute. Continue reading

Should you get your MBA, or are degrees outdated?

Lately I have been spending time in twitter chats centered on the topic of millennials. Most of the participants are my generational peers (i.e. millennials). One of the subjects that comes up a lot is that college degrees are overrated in today’s day and age. Each time someone makes that point I have a small panic attack. Why? Because I have spent a good portion of my adult life in a classroom. Continue reading

Why failure is an option

It was another beautiful day in the Sierra’s. Not a cloud in the sky and the surrounding mountains were perfectly reflected in the glassy surface of the lake resting in the valley below. The sounds of tourists exploring the mountains echoed off the surrounding granite walls. They sounded happy and excited, completely unaware of the epic battle I was currently engaging in with one particular cliff on that mountainside.

34884_425727596120_4950067_nI was forty feet above the ground and desperately trying to control my breathing so my leg would stop shaking (a phenomenon rock climber’s call sewing machine). The tips of my fingers were delicately hanging onto two small edges protruding from the face of the cliff. Every second I refused to continue on increased the burning sensation in my forearms from the lactic acid. Continue reading

The need for start-ups to be agile

header-agile-business-guy-jumpingAsk anyone who has ever been involved in a start-up, there is no such thing as titles, roles, or departments. There is work to be done and everyone on the team gets that work done. It does not matter what your business card says you do, it matters what needs to be done to get that product to market.

This has been my story for the last four and a half years. Continue reading

All companies should be centered around innovation

innovationEvery company that has ever existed started with someone who had an innovative and entrepreneurial spirit. Even if they did not come up with the original idea or were the first ones to market. Starting a competing venture is essentially saying you think you can do it better, which is an example of an innovative spirit.

The problem is that many companies lose their way. They innovate and revolutionize their way to success. The champagne starts flowing and the victory parties are thrown. Then the fear sets in. The fear of losing what has been created, obtained, and achieved. This puts the leadership team in a defensive position. So instead of following the formula that got them there (throwing caution to the wind and risking it all), they hedge their bets and play it safe. They lose that entrepreneurial / innovative spirit that brought them the original success. Continue reading

Standardization & the impact it can have on products

bp'sIn the last post we talked about some of the positive and negative impacts that variation can have on your products. In this article we will be looking at the opposite of variation, which is uniformity. Some of the ways product managers can create uniformity is by standardizing on systems, product features, and pricing schemes. There are people who dedicate their lives to mastering the subject of standardization (think six sigma and lean manufacturing). What I hope to express is that just like variation, standardization can be a double edge sword. Continue reading

Creating Training Programs to Scale Up Your Operations

One of the most challenging time periods of new product development is when things start taking off. Customers like the product and the demand begins to sky rocket. Product champions must figure out how to quickly scale up their operations and subsequently their staff. In an ideal world, Human Resources would spear head the hiring and training initiatives and feed the development team product ninjas on a weekly basis. If that is not the world you live in (like me), then you need to be able to develop a training program and deploy it quickly with little or no budget. No problem!

Where to start?

Marketing MaterialMy guess is that if you are finding yourself in this position you have already done a good job marketing and selling your product. The material generated for those efforts can be repurposed to serve as the foundation for your new training program. If the purpose of technical marketing material is to educate potential customers on a product, then that material can serve equally well to educate new team members. Continue reading

Simpler is Always Better

SimplicityThis is a rule I strive to live by as a product manager. As I work to improve my product line, I ask myself, “Is this the simplest version of the product that I can create?”

As my team and I create the controls for our product line, we are always asking, “Are these the simplest systems we can create?” We use this question to review all of the product design standards, sales strategies, and manufacturing processes that are in place.

As the demand for our product has grown, our team has naturally had to grow as well. We continually ask ourselves, “Is this the simplest organizational structure possible or are we creating layers of bureaucracy that inhibit us from future growth?” Continue reading

Standing In The Line Of Fire

Have you ever taken the fall for someone else? How did you feel? There was likely a bit of anger, frustration, and resentment. You probably told yourself that you would never allow that situation to happen again.

trustWhat if I told you not to make that resolution? That instead, you should seek opportunities to stand in the line of fire for someone else. For someone you lead.

As product managers, we are responsible for leading teams that take ideas from concept to reality. By definition this is a learning and developmental activity. As with all learning, people make mistakes. This is in fact how most people and teams learn, by trial and error. This is likely how you yourself learned, by making mistakes. Continue reading

The Systems Development Cycle

As an engineer, I really enjoy this part of my job. Creating and implementing systems is at its core an engineering function. You have to understand the tools and materials available to you and design a machine that does its job both efficiently and effectively. The simpler the system, the easier it is to understand and maintain.

Systems Development Cycle

Systems Development Cycle

When you are taking a new product from research and development to market you will experience the full systems development cycle. I have broken this cycle into what I believe are six steps. Many product managers are tempted to stall out on step four, while many others will likely never make it past step two. Continue reading