My recent executive conversations have a common theme - speed. Specifically, they all want their teams to move faster.
For example, one client acknowledged they were still trying to figure out how to better prioritize so they could focus on executing at a pace they’ve never moved at before. They need to release products faster so they can learn from the market faster, but the team’s focus and sense of urgency is not where it needs to be.
To move faster, we need to adopt more flexible operating structures but we also need to change our standards of what ‘done’ looks like.
Earlier in my career, after returning from one of my maternity leaves, I was told that my role had expanded to that of “Product Manager.”
As a “Practice Leader,” I had strong customer voice and product development skills, but now my job was expanding to include product marketing, KPI management (including revenue targets), and long-term product strategy. I loved the expanded scope; however, although I had an MBA, I never received any formal Product Management training.
I was given an article about Product Management to read and I had to figure the role out on the fly. I made it work, but it wasn’t easy. I took a very boot-strap approach: I tacked a copy of Ben Horowtiz's Good Product Manager/Bad Product Manager  to my bulletin board, and read it every morning. And I took a leap of faith.
The companies I work with are usually B2B, knowledge-based companies (such as professional services firms) that are trying to develop new technology-enabled products—something outside their core product set. To do so requires them to think differently about how they work and how they create value for their customers.
It requires innovation.
I’ve come to learn that innovation can be tricky, and it takes hard work. It's not because the leaders are not visionary, or the team isn't creative or smart. Nor is it because the company culture is stagnating or stifling. It's because, as humans, we tend to favor the routine, the known, the comfortable. Innovation often takes us outside our comfort zones and it certainly almost always requires behavior change. So, rather than suggesting genuinely new ideas, we suggest ideas that we have seen work elsewhere. Or we turn to gimmicks that we think will make us more innovative. For example, “The right business process tool will help – let’s ditch Asana and start using Notion!” Or, even worse, we imagine that adopting open floor plans and bringing in a ping-pong table is what we need to get our teams to think more creatively.
In my experience, and the research supports this, making our companies more innovative requires 1) organizing for innovation, 2) upskilling our people, 3) adopting a disciplined process, and 4) establishing clear and aligned priorities. Here's what I’ve learned about how each of these elements can build an organization where ideas flourish and new revenue growth is possible.
“If I give this new product to my current sales team to sell, it might eat away my existing business.”
We hear this a lot.
So many executives get caught up in the fear that new products will detract, or worse destroy, their existing business. It is a legitimate concern. Total or partial cannibalization can occur when a new product moves customers away from current service offerings or product lines.
That’s why we spend a lot of time helping companies to scope, position, and launch new product innovations in a way that does not mistakenly cannibalize existing revenue streams.
We call our approach the 3 Cs of Cannibalization.
On the last day of February, Cincinnatian’s overcame freezing temperatures, grid locked traffic, and gusts of wind, hail, and snow, to attend a Women in Product Cincinnati event hosted by 84.51°, in downtown Cincinnati.
While the weather was cold, the discussions inside certainly weren’t. Moderated by Danielle Koval, we were fortunate to gain advice, wisdom, and more from Jennifer Bailey, a Director of PM at 84.51°, Lydia Henshaw, Head of Product at Alchemy, and Mike Varona, Lead Consultant of Thought Works.
Here are few of the biggest takeaways shared with PMs of at all levels that evening.
Many professional services firms have one or more of the following growth strategies:
· “Productizing” existing services
· Creating more scalable, renewable service offerings
· Building or buying a software platform to extend their service offering
· Creating “FILL IN THE BLANK as a Service”
These product-minded growth strategies are attractive.
Yesterday I had the honor of speaking with a group of local leaders about how to create more inclusive work environments (thank you, GCHRA!). We spent the morning discussing how diverse teams offer the ‘trifecta’ of great product management: more innovation, better problem solving, and greater customer empathy.
This past weekend I had the opportunity to speak at ProductCamp Cincinnati about helping more women succeed in product management roles. My recent trip to the annual Women in Product conference inspired me to start a local discussion about how to increase the number of women in product leadership roles.