Sunday, April 26, 2009

My "100 day" plan

So I'm starting my new job tomorrow and have been hearing a lot lately about Barack Obama's first 100 days and how he has fared. So I thought to myself, I should consider where I want to be after 100 days on the job and what key milestones do I want to have accomplished. So here we go:

  1. I want to be considered as SME regarding my aspects of the product
  2. I want to be considered as quite knowledgeable about the entire product set
  3. I want to reduce the workload on my manager
  4. I want to feel comfortable with the product development process
  5. I want to start to build trust with my team
I know that there aren't really specific or measurable, but they are areas where I will be tracking my progress.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Some interesting reading

So the other day I sat down with my friends "Businessweek" and "Fortune" and got two interesting tidbits of information that really resonated with me, so I thought I'd share:

  1. From Carol Bartz, CEO of Yahoo! - "Yahoo was amateur hour in the past when it comes to product management..groups haphazardly released things without a clear sense of whether customers wanted them. From now on she has promised, products will arrive on schedule so that customers can offer feedback".
  2. From Massimo d'Amore, Pepsi Americas CEO - "Aiming for perfection is the enemy of good progress". This one really struck me...A lot of times I've seen grandiose visions and beautiful powerpoint presentations, but the reality on the ground was that there was no real progress being made. While striving for perfection is important, I'd rather focus on good progress!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Leaving a job

So as many of you have noticed, its been a while since a couple of weeks since I have posted anything. Who am I kidding..."many of you", I doubt that anyone besides me reads this blog...but anyways...The reason why it has been a couple of weeks is that right now I'm between jobs. Leaving a job can be a trying and difficult time, but it says a lot about your character. I've seen employees pretty much say "screw you" and leave. I've seen folks give their two weeks notice, but somehow disappear. I've gone through my fair share of job transitions and here are some lessons I have learned:
  1. Be there - Support your team as you transition. They will likely need what is in your head and supporting them will likely leave them with a positive memory of your work. I remember the following quotation quite vividly "A man is not defined by what happens to him, but rather by how he reacts to what happens to him."
  2. Be positive - No matter how frustrated or angry you are, focus on the lessons learned and how you can apply those lessons in the future.
  3. Give yourself some time off - If your financial situation allows for it, a couple of days, weeks, etc. can allow you to get back to those things you neglected while you were working those long hours. You'll start your new job feeling refreshed and energized.
  4. Ask for feedback - Now that folks know you are not sticking around, it may be a good time to ask for candid feedback. This is a good opportunity to learn about how others view you so you can avoid making the same mistakes at your new job.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Every once in a while I like to take a moment and reflect on some key lessons that I have learned. Given that I am transitioning to a new opportunity I thought that this would be a good time to share some thoughts...

This is an important skill that I see so many managers and leaders lacking. After managing my team for several months I learned that you have to listen to, learn from, and respect everyone you work with. When folks know that you are listening they listen to you as well. Projects and people move forward when they listen.

Manage Knowledge and Information
In a technology company you have to know your product. This can be complex. Set up a wiki, document your knowledge to share with others. This will not only help you learn and grow, but also help your team and others. This can drive sales enablement materials as well.

Know your audience
When you give a presentation think about your audience and the perspectives they have and questions they may have. I'm also a big believer in managing your manager. As an employee it is important to understand your manager's style of communication, likes and dislikes, etc. Leadership is about the ability to influence and you can't influence that which you do not know.

Be Positive
Sometimes its easy to get bogged down in the negative. Focus on the positive. For me, I've focused on what I have learned and how I have grown as a product manager. I am also quite thankful for the opportunities i have been given. Nobody likes to work with a grumpy product manager!

Your success is defined by the success of your team
As a leader and manager of a team, it has always helped me to be a "servant leader" to enable my team's success. I have taken a lot of pride in developing and growing the team to help deliver the best product and product information to market. Allow your team to succeed and your success will follow

Succession Planning is important

I know we typically hear about this for CEOs and other C-level executives...but succession planning for your team? I say yes! If you have done a good job mentoring your team and leading them to success, then this won't be that difficult. I recently transitioned into a new role within my former company and my previous team didn't miss a beat. It feels a bit weird to not feel needed anymore, but I can honestly say I'm proud of that accomplishment.

Transparency in product development

When I started my role running the program and project teams, things were a mess, nobody knew where the projects were in the "process" and nobody knew who was working on what. The first thing I did was put "windows on the factory". We started tracking how our resources were being allocated against our priorities and we defined a simple process that was just enough process for us. We could now track our projects against this process. It wasn't perfection on day one, but it was clearly a step in the right direction.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Some Recent Research

As a North Carolina State University graduate, I still do follow the business school and latest news. Yesterday this came across my inbox:

Studies Show That Nice Guys Finish First in Business World
When it comes to leading a team tasked with developing new products and bringing them to market, new research by faculty at the North Carolina State University College of Management shows that being nice and playing well with others gives you a very real competitive advantage. Read more

So, let me get this straight..a tenured professor at NCSU just figured this out? A junior project manager can tell you that!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Meetings and Laptops

I know that this is a lot of debate about allowing laptops in meetings. Nothing is more annoying tha when someone is typing away and then something comes up and they are asked a question. The deer in the headlights look and then having the repeat the past 2 minutes of conversation are quite wasteful.

When I run a meeting I don't have a particular rule to have all laptops closed. I do, however, prefer to keep my laptop closed when I attend meetings. I find the use of a pad of paper and a pen to take notes and then going back to my desk with my notes is nice...sometimes its nice to not to get away from your laptop.