Two Philosophies From My Yoga Instructor Applied to Product Management 

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In the product management discipline, we like to think of ourselves as CEO of our product.  We can tend to become slightly obsessed with the success of each product, and we own it like the fate of the company depends upon it.

The discipline of product management is based on a few key philosophies. My favorite of these is Pragmatic Marketing. I resonate with their framework as it helps us identify and focus our activities on strategy and execution, product marketing and product management.  It also provides a structure to do a top to bottom assessment our marketing and product management activities.  In this way we do not spend too much time of some areas and not enough on others.

During two recent yoga classes, my instructor focused on the following two concepts: do no harm and be truthful with yourself. Rather than apply these concepts to yoga, however, I had an epiphany about product management and pragmatic marketing.

While it’s probably easy to grasp how these concepts would apply to learning a new, difficult yoga pose, you might be a bit confused as to how they relate to product management and pragmatic marketing. I won’t bother trying to explain how my mind works, but I will say that it drifted far from learning the actual poses and onto how I could apply the concepts to product management and product marketing. Here are a few revelations I uncovered.

Do No Harm To Your Product Line

  1. Don’t get so creative in pricing and packaging that you royally mess up your revenue or aggravate your customers.  Use data to analyze scenarios and determine what customer segments will be winners and which will be losers in a new mode.  Proactively plan to engage the losers and figure out how to help them.
  2. Don’t be so amorphous in your distinctive differentiation and value proposition that your sales force can’t talk intelligently with technical users or economic buyers.  My suggestion here is to leverage user groups or customer councils to get the message right.
  3. Don’t design end-of-life or end-of-support models that completely disenfranchise your customers.  Err on the side of helping customers with the time necessary to move to your new release.

Be Truthful With Your Product Line

  1. Are you meeting and exceeding your numbers because of a great product and go-to-market, or are you just the beneficiary of forces beyond your control?  I have been a part of product management teams that were so enamored with their list of features and attributing that to their success that they didn’t realize that revenue was being driven mostly from pricing and packaging.
  2. We all like to think we are investing in innovation, but are we really?  After you analyze your engineering investments down to specific modules and user stories, are you surprised to find that most of the money is going into retiring technical debt, or rounding out partial features. or working down a list of micro-features for dozens of enhancement requests for your noisy customer list?
  3. Products have  life-cycles and lifetimes.  Has your product entered the maturity or (woe to us) the decline stage, but management thinks it is still in the growth phase?  If your product is already 3-5 years old, it is time to look at the next wave of functionality and features / modules you can leave behind.   Perhaps it is time to build the next, new thing  and cannibalize your old product space.  Better your product management team than the competitor.

The list could go on, but this short list is really a pragmatic approach to getting close to the product customer interaction as a way to ensure the leadership team treats the product line as a first class citizen and not just as a mechanism to revenue or individual promotional opportunities.

Seek out Better Product Management Teams

Beware the product team that believes their own narrative.  Seek out the product lines that have pragmatic assertions in their game plan that are based upon facts and analysis.  Click here to read more about my perspectives on product management.

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