Connecting Goals, Team, Individual, Company, Customer

When is a road map more than a list of features? When it is connected to people! Yes all features come from problems in the market that our customers have, it is also connected to a persona that an indiidual customer may represent.

The afterburners of excellence comes when Product leaders connect those features to team goals and individual excellence that all roll up to the company vision, mission and goals. Vision and mission statements are living documents. Not in terms of change which should happen in a considered process only but in terms of being owned by everyone and held in their role or tasks every day.

It is common for the team to produce goals or missions then leave them on the wall never to be thought of again until review cycles. Forbidden is to extend them to your customers but that is also a great place for them to be shared, a great test by the way of how internal or market focused those goals are.

Today we talk about team in a politically correct manner over the individual accomplishments. High performing teams understand that “Teams” don’t accomplish people do. People are supported in their teams not able to do much without others but when the rubber hits the road there is a person that picked up that task and delivered it through whatever means.

I have built many high performing teams that in a few cases delivered just unbelievable solutions. All these great teams celebrated the individual who “Pulled it through” not selfish about the parts they help with, understanding that their turn will come.

Celebrating the individual attachment to goals is powerful to make the accomplishments and vision statements real! Do the roll up with your team at the start and close of each effort. It is in the human nature to need a tactile real world connection of their work with the greater vision. Leaders make this connection and strengthen their teams to connect the dots.

Bring tools rather than Process!

When executives or experienced Product Mangers and Marketers show up at an existing company they often have a head full of ideas they want to implement. Most of these come from past successes or things they learned and never got the chance to implement.

Would you respect a doctor that acted from their past knowledge rather than test, listen, ask questions before they treat? Would a Product Manger build before market test or research? Why would it then be ok to step in as a Consultant or new Executive with your answers or just what you have been told by the CEO or Board before interviewing or reviewing? A good plan is built on analysis, research and many perspectives. A good plan has a hypothesis of what is working and not.

Bring your tools to help get a product function up and functional, bring your tools box full rather than your head full of what you “should do.’ Yes this can get you in trouble but with understanding and a tool box full of experiences you stand a better chance of success than coming in with something in mind that has nothing to do with what is not working.

Bringing on a new exec or consultant is not an insignificant choice for a CEO. In a way it is admitting fault, something is broken and your skills can’t get it fixed. Coming into a broken system it is good to remember that something is broken and something works. A great leader takes a SHORT time to figure that out and fix what is broken first.

Additionally the big broken thing may be masking other issues and usually is so I always seek to take an engineering approach that fixes one thing at a time. Some may fear that this is a slow process and that is a very real trap but this is where experience comes in. Move fast and deliberate, communicate your findings and your actions broadly, then celebrate the significant steps which will encourage others to join you on the next steps. This will be like a ball rolling downhill gaining mas and speed if you do it right. The bumps get easier as you get speed and followers.

There is a very real push to wipe the slate clean and start over, personally that through the baby out with the bath water and is a simple idea that rarely works. You lose information period. Not only domain knowledge but so much more institutional knowledge. Don’t burn the barn Fix it!

Conversational and Instructive Marketing

Have you looked into chat ads? Currently for kids but the root could be great in B2B! Perhaps a solution to the diminishing returns on your e-mail content marketing? In content marketing what comes to mind is something a prospect once shared in a focus group. They said: I have plenty of knowledge… it’s the application of knowledge I struggle with!

How do we move from Content to conversation? And make that conversation about our product or service? In the newest sales book “The challenger sale” the thesis is making the sales process more educational? Turn your sales force into a customer resource.

How does our marketing get on board with this beyond supplying sales with information? Create a two way conversation with prospects about their industry or work that is targeted. Anticipates questions, understands requests. Imagine for a moment your auto responder responds to content? You know the push message, anticipate the question not the click.

Personalized response, Copied sales rep and turn an auto response into a three way conversation! Well two and a machine.

Recently I have reviewed a new wave of marketing automation solutions. Not much earth shattering but clearly targeting a market that is getting dollars and companies eager to be on the leading edge of whatever comes through.

Investors are reading the tea leaves and see the current marketing patterns weakening, hear the pundits suggesting and ready to write checks. We are not looking for disruption or a tweak. Marketing automation needs a small thunderstorm, big enough to move a few cows around the field but not so much as it ruins the crops.

Yea analogy is Coloradan not NYC

Curious or Commanding – What type do you hire?

What is your Leadership and Marketing style? A core skill of all product managers is curiosity. When hiring or evaluating a team curiosity lives on two levels, first is the individual and second is cultural. Founders have enormous passion and vision but often fail miserably to share or communicate to others what they see. I worked briefly with Steve Jobs and saw in him what some say was him being a jerk but in my understanding it was a visionary man who lacked the vocabulary to communicate or pin down what he saw as wrong.

It may seem commanding thereby sucking the innovation out of a team when a leader is lacking the verbal tools to communicate. We have all heard the term “I can’t tell you but I know when I see it”. To some measure this is a cop out for someone who has not pushed themselves to learn to communicate in terms or be definitive.

The old product idiom that customers talk in terms of solutions not problems is true throughout our culture. Problems are painful, talking to them is considered a sign of failure. The leader is one who openly has the courage of character to walk through the problem definition and explore ideas in the divergent phase then take the risks to select ideas in the convergent stage that may in fact be poor choices.

This is part of the reason that hiring outside Product executives is so hard. The interview process is one of Q&A not idea exploration. To overcome this many teams work on use cases with staff hires so they can witness thought behavior in action. This is not even close to standard practice in the executive or portfolio level hiring process.

Clearly in smaller companies the founder still in the leaders chair often gets into debates with outside experts. I can’t tell you how many times I hear “they just don’t understand us” from founders! Portfolio level execs that come in with deep multi industry experience work in terms of models at the top level, they explore and need to get context before offering solutions, not what founders hitting a wall of change want!

To be a founder or start-up you risk everything so ego is required, and frankly a lot of it! So don’t get me wrong I love founders’ energy but at some point like a parent with a child one needs to let go! Allow that product to live so it can have a “Life Cycle”. Doing this is not easy emotionally and if you have not developed new vocabulary and behavioral skills you will destroy the curiosity of others, create a culture of “do – don’t think” and limit your dreams.

The first trigger in emerging companies is hiring in executive talent. This can be positive layering if you do two things: first is demonstrate that you seek experts in areas, listen to them and celebrate their value. Second is bring up your existing teams through training or coaching to the point you have a culture of outsider support, no “not built here” thinking.

Compliance and Regulation, the scary words

Random thought

For a few years I have been working with more regulated markets from Medical to Data. There are two powers that drive compliance: first is from the government that is either protecting others or engaged in behavioral modification efforts of some sort, the second is from lawyers in civil actions.

Not sure which of these carries more emotion or risk. Traditionally unless the error was so grievous the government would slap wrists and bank accounts then move on, there are more social downsides now and they are reacting to minor errors. The legal penalties from tort and civil law suits can carry judgments that end companies.

So what is compliance? Simply put you are showing that you are doing what you have agreed to do or the government has asked you to do business. Following processes and keeping records. Regulations are the way a government asks participants in certain markets or activities to act that protects others.

We use compliance in areas as a label or our processes and procedures. Ways to teach many how to handle an event. Processes are essential to maturing on the business lifecycle and compliance to policy or process allows an entity to scale. Great policy or process has exception clauses built in that enable action so the process can keep running while addressing new information that did not fit. Think Six Sigma!

Great compliance tools are flexible like great processes but keep records of history and why they may have changed. It is so difficult to review change when no one documented the drivers of that change, Ugh! Tools are just now coming to market that meet these requirements, software that supports business rather than requesting business support it!

While I am many other would like freer markets less encumbered by regulation that is simply unrealistic. Regulation like taxes do not get rolled back! They may morph and expand, even consolidate but rarely eliminated and that in some cases is ok. The way forward to eliminate regulation is innovate around it, change the base line, obsolete old methods.

Recently the “Sharing Economy” has begun threatening regulations in the Taxi, B&B and other industries. It is the regulators time to evolve or become irrelevant. Great innovators don’t fight they change the game. Technology is the key to moving forward, in any industry there is a bell curve of players, some great, some problems.

An old science adage is “the solution to pollution is dilution”, so wash your eye out if something splashes in it. The concentration is lowered the risk or damage with it. More innovation will destroy the regulatory contamination of the past and social media will enable the world to choice the better players.

Yes we have so much information now about bad actors in society from the local criminals to the psychotics beheading others in the Middle East. This information though can be used by the local communities to regulate or eliminate the bad actors.

Consumers have this same power with bad actors in the Sharing Economy. The risk is silence, the risk is no history or documentation. Use the community to change the world but understand expected behavior then what went wrong so other learn. Not the work here of governments but the wok of communities. Communities rightfully do not trust governments, critical thinking is on the raise. We are a data based culture and our memory is long when we consult data not spin.

s!

 

Trickle down Investing

No intent to be political, however I have been building and turning around companies for almost 3 decades. Most of my connections to work have come from investors and have learned quite a bit about them. Currently With a group of business leaders are building a model that helps Family Office funds seek and work with emerging companies with complete product ready for market.

Last week a local “progressive” minded friend was pontificating about the evil “trickle down” economic failure.

Q: Hmm, I said so what would you prefer?

A: Government investment!

Q; So what is the difference between the Government “Investing” and Investors in charge of their own money

A: The Government choices better and focus on all benefitting rather than a few

Q: So Google, Microsoft, Oracle, Ford… only benefit a few?

A: Well… those are only a few, most rip off the middle class

Q: why would a company rip off the largest segment of customers?

Friend turning to Got you Question: What would you rather be done?

Me: Allow individuals and companies to invest, Help small business people learn and grow with their help, share their learnings, share their ideas, teach others and grow an army of new business leaders, Do what they do best turn capital in to new capital!

 

Yes friends we all need others, each learning from other, each building on the work of others, Innovation comes from team work and data. This does not validate collective action this supports hard work, risk, teams of experts, there are many things I cannot do and pay others to do. This is Barter and trade and capitalism. It started when the first two farmers decided to raise different crops then trade!

 

Money flows down, those who built wealth have a passion for the most part to help and continue building it. Yes they actually risk hard earned capital on others. Risk is the driver of good decisions, Other people’s money is not as valuable. This goes to those who live Round to Round in the start-up community.

Strat-ups need to treat investors’ money like it was their own, guess what it is. You can’t jump from start-up to start-up. This is a problem with investors that only invest with a few people as managers, after a while they are working a formula not a passion grown from their experiences. Yes it does take skills to grow that many founders’ lack, but founders have passion that managers lack.

 

Thanks to both the founders and managers, but praise to the investors who risk and help nothing can happen without you. Please stick around and don’t go Gault!

Rant- Leading a team is about risk and response not reaction

Markets move and you are not the only one on this planet with the idea you have. Risk is inherent in leadership as are errors and failure. If you wait and test every concept and idea you will still fail. Moving fast does not promise success but over analyzing will almost surely bring failure.

The results curve is not an even distribution. Moving too fast is high risk yes but there is a moment that comes soon for innovation or leadership where the risk is still high but the reward for entering the market is high also. Early product often called and MVP (minimal Viable Product) handled with care, listening to the customer and rapid response wins hearts and minds.

As we all know today hearts and minds equates to market share that is tough to shake. Customers buy great products and great companies. Not great companies for employees with pin pong tables and beer but great companies that listen, deliver and truly partner with me. Customers of these companies tell everyone how great you are. There is no risk of you fouling a business relationship or professional image through bad action.

Step up and be accountable, acknowledge short comings and get them fixed. Master the art of learning from the event, stay in the ugly moment when your customer is losing it on you. Return with a solution and innovation, give them the power to choose, many times if the pain has been great they need a safe feature especially if they need to resell you internally.

Leaders fail, it is inherent in risk, learn to be present with it inside and outside the company. Over time you will shine more than if you just ignore of fight or say Yes without listening. Failing is painful, but as I tell kids in football pain is weakness leaving the body. Can your team feel pain, not you yelling and firing but from customers and shame of bad performance.

Teams and good staff will learn to lick the wounds then regain their position with teams and customers both external and internal. Yelling and firing only sends the message internally that risk is fatal. To the customer if failure means new team members they will stop taking to you, no one likes to get folks fired or worse yet see the truth that your company is not a learning organization and the leadership is a bunch of arrogant fools. Your choice.

Yes I just witnessed this – the bunch of arrogant fools will be done soon.

Screens Vs. Stories

One is an interactive conversation the other automated easily. Recently I had a GM interviewing me for a contract role who asked if I had experience with developing screens. Partially because it was a device centric company and we had spoken of my past with HW/SW integration of OEM solutions I said no. In my mind I had not worked with developing Physical HW screens for mobile devices.

Later it dawned on me that he was referring to the interface layer. Ugh, while not in the software world and over focused on the numbers this showed not only a legacy approach but more so a deeper belief in how the company approached innovation. The old approach to software was born of a fixed state machine flow chart method of technology. You get presented a “Screen” with choices and boxes for data input then the application goes and does.

While software is yes still linear it is no whore of an interface to information and capabilities. Not the old enterprise model but more of a dynamic component structure. Think of having a button for a role, all your finance with incomes, payments, reports. We approve now or choice. We have systems that alert us and monitor based on permissions or thresholds. We ask software to collect data and review it then tell us what we ask.

This is where Stories come in, A story is the telling of an event, more than a requirement it gives context to activity. Telling a story about a great hunt starts with character development and environment, this is the context that good stories require. This is the story that helps a UX design real for the user.

We have conversations with applications today rather than command it to do something. A welcome change if you ask me. If your team is still building screens they are not innovating. Ask them to build interactions and tell stories of those interactions.

Measure Cut, Cut Measure

This is a theme that is growing in my mind lately. At first I was describing the to a group how Agile methodologies in development differ from the business functions. If development has good market data they are a measure cut function. We give them a firm goal in story form and they in short order deliver product or prototype.

The remaining functions of a business act more in a Cut Measure mode. We observe or discover, then probe or create hypotheses to test. Those test results are inspected and a new hypostasis is created that may require more testing or is put into development and market.

Product management has been pulled into the Agile Development world so far that I see PMs losing their identity as problem solvers and business side gate keepers. When Sales and customer service fill your back log then you work that you are being assimilated into the development team!

Let me get clear I am a big proponent of Agile methodologies and soon to launch a  web service that connects the dots between proper Policy Governance in board and team management and Agile methodologies.

You see whether you call it a story or an ends statement it is still a clear unit of deliverable and accountable work that adds value to stakeholders. How you create strong productive scrums code delivery is also how you deliver a growing profitable company.

It is Newt Rockne football, ten yards at a time! Just there is a difference on the business side, when you need to cut first then measure. Work units change in time and unit in/ unit out of work is defined in words or research. Documentation still exists because the work unit is often communication and variable. An answer can be 5 rather than 3, Done is rare.

Even in marketing campaigns success is based on not a single mail but a trend line that often is relative as to when to jump of, if things are strong great but as they soften the rate of decline and the readiness of a new concept determine sunset activity. Agile for the Business is a cut measure and can be supported by core Agile concepts, Let’s figure this out together

Be here now!

Years ago I worked at a large wireless carrier and one of their management development programs for the year centered on a key phrase, “Be Here Now”.

We were seeking leaders who had the natural ability to be present in any situation.

At that time Mobile phones were just beginning to be persistent in any business environment and folks struggled not to answer all calls. Yes they checked their phone rather than focus on customer or co-worker conversations. The result is we found we were missing details that were shared but not noted in any manner. How to tick of a customer is not listen.

Today you can walk through a restaurant as see business and social groups where at least one person is checking their smart phone or carrying on a separate interaction than the one they are physically involved in.

This has gotten through a pain cycle and more people are waking up to the power of “Being here now!”  Yesterday was the first time a person wearing Google glasses engaged me in a conversation while wearing the glasses. I asked him to take them off while we spoke, he was shocked. I explained that I was having two issues: first was my time is important to me and if not to him then he should move on, Second was that I was not sure what was begin recorded by the glasses and would like to know if the conversation was “On the record?”

I am an admitted tech geek, device lover, early innovative adaptor, no one will argue that! This was the most intrusive feeling I have ever felt.