Go big or go home. That’s what we used to say to each other while climbing in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. We pushed ourselves harder and harder every season. We were constantly trying to find our best on those boulders, cliff faces, and mountains.
I’m still trying to go big. Except now the mountains have become revenue goals, and the relentless desire to get to the top of the cliff has been refocused on some crazy new product. The game has changed, but the rules are the same.
One of the mandatory elements you have to have in climbing is trust. Trust in your partner. Trust in his abilities, his focus on your shared goal, and his commitment to always putting his partner’s safety first. Trust in your partner is sometimes all you have when your ten miles away from the nearest phone and on a 1000’ vertical rock face. Continue reading
To 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
I graduated with a degree in Civil Engineering back in 2006. After working two years for a Civil Engineering firm, I got laid off at the end of 2008 due to the housing crisis.
So by the summer of 09’ I was broke, newly married, and desperate for work. Fortunately I landed a dream job working for a company called Ropeworks. The company specializes in rope access which is essentially industrial rock climbing. Using rope techniques developed on the big walls of Yosemite Valley, workers are placed hundreds of feet in the air to perform a wide variety of tasks.
I was fortunate enough to get hired because of my engineering background. The original idea was that I would help the company land more bridge inspection jobs. I did do a few bridge jobs (I even got to inspect the Crescent City Connection in New Orleans), but most of my time was spent doing maintenance work on 300’ tall wind turbines. Which was an awesome gig for an adrenaline junkie like me.
I believe the success of innovative products depend upon the dedicated team driving that product. Because there are so many forces opposing new products entering the market, the development team has to be unified and focused on the goal to succeed. The team has to have a leader they respect and are willing to follow when those opposing forces are bearing down.
That responsibility can be a lot for a leader. Especially when that person is having to play the corporate political game at the same time. Too often team leaders can focus their energy on impressing executive management instead of impressing the development team. Yet, these are the people who are the engine moving the new product to market. Continue reading
One of the less enjoyable roles of being a product champion is dealing with people who are not happy either with you, your team, or your product. It does not take very long playing this game before you will find yourself in some embroiled misunderstanding. Working in the construction industry, I have often encountered that big hairy foreman who has no problem getting in my face when things are not going well. Conflict resolution has been essential for keeping my product development efforts from getting derailed over a misunderstanding.
What conflicts arise in a Project Management Role?
Customers. If you did a real bang up job during your research and development phase as well as working with your focus groups, you might have avoided those bumps during the first release of the product. If not, get ready to take care of some frustrated customers (which you absolutely must do if you want to stay in business).
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.
What 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