Transcript: Ask the UXperts: The secrets of leading successful product teams — with Jen Marshall

Transcript: Ask the UXperts: The secrets of leading successful product teams — with Jen Marshall

Jen Marshall
Summary:

Brainmates CEO Jen Marshall joined us in our Slack channel this week to share some secrets to leading successful product teams.

If you missed the session, never fear – read on for the full transcript.

Brainmates CEO Jen Marshall joined us in our Slack channel this week to share some secrets to leading successful product teams.

We talked about the overlap between product and UX and the traits that great product designers have. We talked about ways of better understanding Product Fit and of communicating requirements to team members and stakeholders. Perhaps most importantly, we learned about some of the ways that UX and product designers can work together cohesively.

If you didn’t make the session because you didn’t know about it, make sure you join our community to get updates of upcoming sessions. If you have follow up questions for Jen, you can ask them here.

If you’re interested in seeing what we discussed, or you want to revisit your own questions, here is a full transcript of the chat.

Transcript

 

hawk
2016-09-28 22:59
Ok – let’s get this show on the road

hawk
2016-09-28 23:00
I’ll start by introducing Jen, who will then intro the topic, and then it’s over to you

hawk
2016-09-28 23:00
First though, thanks so much for your time today Jen. It’s appreciated.

jen
2016-09-28 23:01
Thanks for the invite – happy to be here!

hawk
2016-09-28 23:01
Jen Marshall is CEO of Brainmates https://www.brainmates.com.au/
She has experience in eCommerce, telecommunications, commercial evaluation, portfolio management, business casing, senior stakeholder management, contract negotiation, and all aspects of the product lifecycle.

hawk
2016-09-28 23:02
She’s also behind http://www.leadingtheproduct.com/ – if you’re in Australia you should seriously consider going :wink:

hawk
2016-09-28 23:02
In her own words: Jen has deep expertise in news media and publishing, having worked at Fairfax, Optus Digital Media and Sky News. Jen’s early career saw her producing television news bulletins. From there she moved into newsroom leadership roles and began to specialise in digital media. This led to an opportunity to transition into Product Management, which achieved Jen’s goal of becoming more deeply involved in the business.

hawk
2016-09-28 23:02
And she’s here today to talk us through the secrets of leading successful product teams

hawk
2016-09-28 23:03
@jen – over to you to do a more eloquent job of introducing the topic than I have!

jen
2016-09-28 23:03
Thanks @hawk for the lovely intro

jen
2016-09-28 23:03
I’ve been leading Product Teams for eight years now – before that I was a leader in 24/7 TV newsrooms and before that I actually produced the news.

jen
2016-09-28 23:03
These days I’m CEO at Brainmates and I try to combine working on with business with working in the business.

jen
2016-09-28 23:04
Before this gig I held various Product Director roles at Fairfax, overseeing teams delivering publishing products.

jen
2016-09-28 23:04
I’ve left the title a little broad today and I’m happy to take this where the audience wants to go..

jen
2016-09-28 23:04
We can talk Product Teams…. leadership… stakeholder management

jen
2016-09-28 23:04
Over to you….

hawk
2016-09-28 23:04
I have a question from someone that can’t make it, so I’ll ask on behalf of @desertcoder “How do I create harmony when product managers get requirements directly from the owner/stakeholder, which conflicts with market needs discovered by UX and the product owners?”

jen
2016-09-28 23:05
Thanks @desertcoder …. my first step would be to have a discussion about that

jen
2016-09-28 23:06
Approach the PM and outline your concerns in a factual manner and then ask them to explain their position

jen
2016-09-28 23:06
It’s important to make sure you frame the conversation in the right way – it shouldn’t seem like an attack

jen
2016-09-28 23:07
You could use the crucial conversations model to help you prepare for this (only if you feel you need it)

jen
2016-09-28 23:08
Once you understand all perspectives, you’re in a better place to have a discussion about why that’s happening and perhaps address it

jen
2016-09-28 23:08
Does anyone have a follow up to that – seemed like it might be a popular topic…

hawk
2016-09-28 23:10
How hard would you push your position, given that it might jeopardise relationships? I know that many people in our audience struggle to keep emotion from getting in the way of professionalism.

jen
2016-09-28 23:10
It’s really hard to keep emotion out of things like this…

jen
2016-09-28 23:11
Because it can ultimately feel like your professional advice and research is being discarded

jen
2016-09-28 23:11
It’s worth taking the time to unpack what you’re thinking and feeling before going into the conversation

jen
2016-09-28 23:12
Also think about hat you really want for yourself and for the product and for the team

jen
2016-09-28 23:13
It’s ok to say, I’m feeling annoyed / frustrated because I feel as if my research/advice is being ignored

jen
2016-09-28 23:14
Explain what you see happening e.g. I noticed this requirement has been prioritised over this one…

jen
2016-09-28 23:14
That doesn’t make sense and I’d like to understand your perspective

jen
2016-09-28 23:15
Having said all that it’s your turn to listen… some people scenario plan for discussions like these… so they can be ready for the next phase of the conversation

hawk
2016-09-28 23:15
Scenario plan?

jen
2016-09-28 23:16
In this conversation for example, the PM might say, yeah this is a silly situation but I’m doing it because I need to get this stakeholder on side

jen
2016-09-28 23:16
OR they might say, that’s none of your business, I’m the PM and I’m making the calls

jen
2016-09-28 23:16
OR something else…

jen
2016-09-28 23:17
Knowing the person you will be talking to, imaging how they might react and continue to plan your conversation for each of those scenarios

jen
2016-09-28 23:17
Does that make sense?

hawk
2016-09-28 23:17
Absolutely.

hawk
2016-09-28 23:17
I’m hogging the convo a bit here. @nw0ng @brennan @tyler @discodelphia – what challenges do you guys face?

brennan
2016-09-28 23:18
do you have any suggestions on books or courses to better articulate design decisions? I am not the best at communicating these strategies and reasons.

jen
2016-09-28 23:18
Hi @brennan my philosophy on making recommendations is to do this

jen
2016-09-28 23:19
identify the issue / design element you are making the recommendation on

jen
2016-09-28 23:19
then explain two to three directions you might have considered

tyler
2016-09-28 23:19
Do you feel that Project managers should be exclusively client facing or should the whole team be client facing?

jen
2016-09-28 23:20
then show how you evaluated each of these options

jen
2016-09-28 23:20
then you explain why you discarded two of the options and are recommending the other

lukcha
2016-09-28 23:20
@jen, can you outline a couple of the traits for a great Product Manager and where they might overlap with user experience?

jen
2016-09-28 23:21
In order to make the argument strong, you need to show that you have done your homework and considered a few options and that you can support your recommendation with evidence

jen
2016-09-28 23:21
Does that help @brennan …. I’ll put my thinking cap on for a good book and get back to you

brennan
2016-09-28 23:21
and lots of practice doing so, thanks for your advice @jen

brennan
2016-09-28 23:21
it does help!

jen
2016-09-28 23:22
hi @tyler are you talking Product Managers or Project Managers… just to be clear

tyler
2016-09-28 23:22
lol what is the difference?

tyler
2016-09-28 23:22
sorry

jen
2016-09-28 23:22
@tyler that’s an important one to unpack

jen
2016-09-28 23:23
here’s a blog on what Product Managers do

jen
2016-09-28 23:24
But the high level is that a Product Manager needs to understand what the customer wants or needs – then understand how a business can solve that problem while delivering value for both the customer and the business

jen
2016-09-28 23:24
A Project Manager needs to understand all the elements that need to be completed in a project, who is doing them, when the’ll be done and the costs

ashf
2016-09-28 23:25
has joined #ask-jen-marshall

jen
2016-09-28 23:25
Sometimes a Product Manager does Project Management as part of their role – so it can be confusing!

jen
2016-09-28 23:25
Anyway, back to your question …

jen
2016-09-28 23:25
I think teams need to clearly communicate about who’s doing what.

jen
2016-09-28 23:25
I see now issue with both UX and Product Management having access to the customer and the stakeholders

jen
2016-09-28 23:26
So long as the message is consistent and coordinated

jen
2016-09-28 23:26
And so long as there’s not too much doubling up

lukcha
2016-09-28 23:26
Brilliant – Product Management has lots of common ground with UX, plus it represents the business interests in the conversation?

jen
2016-09-28 23:27
As a Product Manager, I’ve often watched live feeds of interviews with customers, being conducted by a UXer

jen
2016-09-28 23:27
And I’ve often brought my UXer in to senior management meetings to present their findings

lukcha
2016-09-28 23:27
I like that :slightly_smiling_face:

jen
2016-09-28 23:27
@tyler am I answering your question… or is it something else you want to know?

hawk
2016-09-28 23:28
@ashf Welcome Ash. Jump in with questions at any time. I’ll queue them for Jen

jen
2016-09-28 23:28
Hey @lukcha you asked about traits and skills that great UXers and Product Managers share

jen
2016-09-28 23:28
One that stands out to me is curiosity about the world

jen
2016-09-28 23:29
Wanting to know more about the customer

jen
2016-09-28 23:29
It’s really important for both roles and when Product Managers and UXers share that passion, it becomes a really powerful alliance

jen
2016-09-28 23:29
I also think they should both be able to talk to customers

jen
2016-09-28 23:30
Know how to frame research and questions

jen
2016-09-28 23:30
Of course UXers conduct a lot of research when building and iterating products

jen
2016-09-28 23:30
But Product Managers often meet clients in sales meetings and other scenarios

jen
2016-09-28 23:31
So they need to jump on every opportunity to keep gathering intel and feeding that back to the team

jen
2016-09-28 23:32
Thanks @hawk for your question about what would I like UXers to understand about Product Management

lukcha
2016-09-28 23:32
That’s helpful, thanks Jen

jen
2016-09-28 23:32
I think the thing that stands out for me is commercial reality

lukcha
2016-09-28 23:33
(Followup question to Hawk’s: How can UXers better get their heads around understanding Product Fit? Are there common or useful methods for really defining the sweet spot between business needs and customer needs? I’m thinking of tools like the Vlaue Proposition Canvas, etc.)

jen
2016-09-28 23:33
Sometimes we can’t invest money in every desirable feature…. sometimes things aren’t perfectly designed and we have to compromise, in order to be a commercial success

jen
2016-09-28 23:33
Of course that is an incredibly fine line to walk

jen
2016-09-28 23:33
Because poor UX and design can lead to Product failure

jen
2016-09-28 23:34
And at the end of the day, the PM has to make the decision on where to draw the line.

jen
2016-09-28 23:34
Sometimes that’s a tough decision to make, and the Product Manager might not be ecstatic about making it

jen
2016-09-28 23:34
Sometimes cutting off development is a fact of life

jen
2016-09-28 23:35
Another thing for UXers to understand is the tricky game of stakeholder management most Product Managers are playing

jen
2016-09-28 23:35
In some organisations things are very political

jen
2016-09-28 23:35
And that means the PM spends a lot of time communicating to stakholders

jen
2016-09-28 23:36
It can turn into a full time job!

jen
2016-09-28 23:37
@lukcha has asked about tools to help understand product fit

ivy
2016-09-28 23:37
I’m a bit late to the party and have scanned the conversation so hope this hasn’t already been asked: what advice do you have for someone who has been doing hybrid PM/UX roles to transition fully into product management? I feel a little daunted by lack of business or marketing experience and so many role descriptions seem to ask for a computer science degree

jen
2016-09-28 23:37
If you read Dan Olsen’s book The Lean Product Playbook

lukcha
2016-09-28 23:37
Great question

hawk
2016-09-28 23:37
Not too late at all @ivy – I’ll queue your q for Jen

jen
2016-09-28 23:38
he talks about Product Fit being determined during customer testing

jen
2016-09-28 23:38
he describes scenarios where having brought consumers in to look a some kind of prototype, they’ve asked to be contacted when the product launches so they can buy it

lukcha
2016-09-28 23:39
haha :slightly_smiling_face:

jen
2016-09-28 23:39
Product Fit can also be assessed by looking at your key metric – maybe revenue or users or engament

jen
2016-09-28 23:39
you know when you see that exponential growth happening in the product lifecycle chart

jen
2016-09-28 23:40
When you see that uptick happen – you know you have Product Fit

jen
2016-09-28 23:41
Meantime – in Ben Horowitz’s book “The Hard Things About The Hard Things”

jen
2016-09-28 23:42
He talks about entrepreneurs calling him up to ask if they’ve achieved Product Fit

jen
2016-09-28 23:42
And he tells them if you have to ask…. you haven’t achieved it yet

jen
2016-09-28 23:42
Really good read by the way!

lukcha
2016-09-28 23:42
I’ll add to my reading list, thanks. :slightly_smiling_face:

lukcha
2016-09-28 23:42
The uptick stuff still sounds hit and miss and very customer led? How do we drive that from the business side? Or is that rarely an issue because business knows what it wants?

jen
2016-09-28 23:43
hi @ivy thanks for your question about transitioning from a hybrid UX/PM role into a PM role

jen
2016-09-28 23:43
You mentioned a lot of places asking for a computer science degree

jen
2016-09-28 23:44
And the need for some business / commercial / marketing skills

jen
2016-09-28 23:44
In my opinion, there are lots of flavours of Product Management roles out there

ivy
2016-09-28 23:44
Yes I’ve seen it requested by places like google and atlassian and Microsoft. And I’ve seen many PMs in the industry seem to come from a marketing background

jen
2016-09-28 23:45
Some are more technical and about Product Ownership (i.e. managing the backlog and product delivery)

jen
2016-09-28 23:45
While some are more about building a new product (hint – this is where your UX skills will be a big help to you)

tyler
2016-09-28 23:45
@jen thank you that was really helpful I just had to step out for a min

jen
2016-09-28 23:46
@ivy what is it that you would like to do as a Product Manager… what attracts you to the role?

ivy
2016-09-28 23:46
I guess I’ve found that in my hybrid experience, my strength is in being able to see the multiple points of view. That is user, business and technical

jen
2016-09-28 23:47
Great @ivy …. so many people fall into Product Management because they are the universal translator!

ivy
2016-09-28 23:47
I also feel as though the problem definition space, the product strategy, has shifted from UX design roles into product management roles. And that is where UX skill set is most valuable

jen
2016-09-28 23:47
Sounds like you might have some good stakeholder management skills to

jen
2016-09-28 23:48
You are right @ivy that there is a coming together of UX and Product Management

ivy
2016-09-28 23:48
Hahaha yes. This is one area I have a lot of experience in. Working with very difficult, diverse stakeholders in sometimes toxic environments

jen
2016-09-28 23:48
The two roles are doing overlapping work

ivy
2016-09-28 23:49
And bringing these parties to a point of shared understanding

jen
2016-09-28 23:49
And it’s also worth mentioning that many UXers become Product Managers too – it’s a well worn path

lukcha
2016-09-28 23:49
aha

ivy
2016-09-28 23:49
And pinpointing what is at stake for each stakeholder so that it can ideally be considered and respected but really so the right compromise can be reached

jen
2016-09-28 23:49
So if I were you – I would start reading up on Product Management, in blogs, books etc

jen
2016-09-28 23:50
You can also take courses and attend conferences to get your knowledge up

jen
2016-09-28 23:50
As well as meetups – there are a few around for PM

jen
2016-09-28 23:50
But you will also need to build your network and look for a first job in PM

jen
2016-09-28 23:51
And I would do this by contacting all the recruiters working on Product Management roles

jen
2016-09-28 23:51
Introduce yourself and explain what you want

jen
2016-09-28 23:51
In startups they are often looking for your kind of skill set

jen
2016-09-28 23:52
Building your PM network will be key to making that transition

jen
2016-09-28 23:52
@ivy where are you based?

ivy
2016-09-28 23:52
I have started those steps so good to hear I’m on the right track. How important do you think it is to get the background in marketing, business and computer science

jen
2016-09-28 23:53
Most people don’t hire on the basis of certificates and training

ivy
2016-09-28 23:53
Sydney. I have rsvped for Adrienne’s next Meetup.

jen
2016-09-28 23:53
They hire for cultural fit and skills and network recommendations

ivy
2016-09-28 23:53
I thought maybe a short course in computer science would balance out the assumptions people might make about my major in Latin :wink:

lukcha
2016-09-28 23:53
@jen, you mentioned conferences are great for getting your knowledge up – and you’re involved in the Leading the Product conference here in Aust. Can you tell us more?

jen
2016-09-28 23:54
I don’t have any computer science background, I learn what I need to on the go

jen
2016-09-28 23:55
When I came to Product Management I had done an MBA – which really helped me with the marketing and commercial side

jen
2016-09-28 23:55
That’s probably too much of an up-front investment, but there are also courses where you can pick that up

jen
2016-09-28 23:55
Feel free to approach me or Adrienne and we can talk more about it

jen
2016-09-28 23:56
@lukcha yes – Leading the Product will be held in Melbourne on Thursday 20th October

jen
2016-09-28 23:56
And in Sydney on Tuesday 25th October

jen
2016-09-28 23:56
It’s a single day, single track conference for anybody include in building Product

lukcha
2016-09-28 23:57
Excellent :slightly_smiling_face:

hawk
2016-09-28 23:57
We only have a couple of minutes left in this session – does anyone have a last minute question for Jen before she starts her day?

jen
2016-09-28 23:57
From a pure UX perspective we have Ash Donaldson from Tobias and Tobias

lukcha
2016-09-28 23:57
Ash is great. I like what he has to say!

jen
2016-09-28 23:57
And Kara DeFrias who is UX Director for the WhiteHouse Cancer Moon shot

jen
2016-09-28 23:57
She is coming all the way from Washington DC!

lukcha
2016-09-28 23:58
That’ll be an interesting talk!

jen
2016-09-28 23:58
We also have Cameron Adams co-founder and CPO at Canva who will talks about four launch cycles he’s been involved in

jen
2016-09-28 23:58
You can check out the details here

hawk
2016-09-28 23:58
Awesome! Well, I think that about wraps it up. Thanks so much for your time today @jen

hawk
2016-09-28 23:59
And to those of you that joined with questions

lukcha
2016-09-28 23:59
Thanks heaps @jen :slightly_smiling_face:

hawk
2016-09-28 23:59
I’ll post up a full transcript of the session on http://uxmastery.com later today

jen
2016-09-28 23:59
Thanks everyone – it was great talking

lukcha
2016-09-29 00:00
And if people have more questions about Product Management, stakeholders, teams, strategy, come and ask in the community forums: http://community.uxmastery.com

brennan
2016-09-29 00:02
Thanks @jen and @hawk

ivy
2016-09-29 00:03
Thanks @jen for the session and ux mastery for organising!

hawk
2016-09-29 00:03
All good :slightly_smiling_face:

chrisoliver
2016-09-29 00:05
@chrisoliver has left the channel

eda
2016-09-29 01:52
has joined #ask-jen-marshall

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