Chandler Moisen

20 Years of Product Management in 25 Minutes

June 02, 2019

If you have 25 minutes to spare, I highly recommend watching Dave Wascha’s 20 Years of Product Management in 25 Minutes.

Wascha is the current CPO at Photo Box and began his career as the product manager for IE 4.0.

His talk, geared towards product managers but applicable to all disciplines across the product organization, encapsulates his learnings from 20 years of successes and failures.

Here is a list of personal learnings from it:

Listen To Customers

  • The PM’s responsibility is to be “manically focused on customer problems”
  • Cannot solve the customers problem without understanding it
  • Cannot understand the problem if you do not listen
  • When you don’t listen to your customers, you build solutions to problems that no one has

Don’t Listen to Customers (when it comes to solutions)

  • Customers are the least qualified people to come up with solutions

Watch the Competition

  • The competition is a rich source of information to understand customer issues
  • Each new feature the competition ships should be viewed as a user test

Don’t Watch the Competition

  • Is implementing a new trend / technology really help my customers solve their problem?

Be a Thief

  • PM’s do not have to come up with all the ideas
  • Your job is to solve customer problems - if the competition has a great solution - steal it!

Get Paid

  • Most PM’s work in commercial endeavors - a lot of time is spent brining features to market
  • Forgot to ask if people will actually pay for what we have built
  • What is the customer’s willingness to pay for a solution?
  • People need to see enough value in what you are building to pay for it
  • PM’s need to solve their customers’ problems - not their company’s

Stop Worrying About Getting Paid

  • “Business-casing the soul out of our products”
  • Forced to justify every change and idea
  • Slows velocity

“Creates a culture of systematic risk aversion”

“Creates a culture of small incremental thinking driving small incremental gains”

  • No longer enough to appeal to just the functional needs of customers - also need to appeal to emotional and social needs

    • Customers want a relationship
    • Customers want to believe that we have their best interest at heart
  • Not all features need to be justified by ROI

Speed Up

  • Need to consider the “cost of delay”
  • How much value is lost by not taking action
  • Everytime a decision is put off, you are destroying value
  • Products have a limited shelf-life - the longer it takes them to get to market the less value they have

Say, “No”

  • Lots of stake holders, competingting priorities, lots of people to make happy
  • Only the customer’s demands should matter
  • But don’t say no for the wrong reasons:

    • Protecting the team
    • Don’t like the person
  • Make sure you are saying no for the right reasons

Don’t Be A Visionary

Products don’t need visionaries they need product managers who are obsessed with understanding the customer’s problem and solving it.

Don’t Confuse Yourself with Your Customer

A product manager that thinks they really know their customer is like a male gynocologist

Be Dumb

You have a precious gift when you are starting off. You are not encumbered by knowledge and you are not encumbered by inertia.

  • Best PM’s have a capacity to be dumb - to always look at a situation through the eyes of a customer
  • Companies drift and lose sight of mission and begin solving their problems, not their customers