Can You “Dance With The Stars”?

Can you imagine showing up for your big moment on Dancing With The Stars  and then not performing the same dance step your partner is performing?  You wouldn’t get very far in the competition.

Organizations do this every day when they don’t bother to use consistent Product Management processes across the company.

So what?

It might work OK except for one thing:  Product Management is a team sport.

If the rest of the cross-functional product team doesn’t know what to expect from the product manager or the process, they waste their time waiting for direction, or dashing off in the wrong direction.

Eventually they disengage – it’s just too hard to figure everything out, and they already have enough to do.

And when that happens on a broad scale you find yourself in fire-fighting mode, with lots of surprises along the way.  Not a great place to be when you’re trying to set executive expectations.

How did it get that way? 

Maybe you recognize one of these situations:

  • Product managers use whatever process they developed or were trained in at their last employer
  • M&A activity allows the newly acquired group to “operate autonomously”, but requires product-level integration
  • Product managers report to business unit managers, with no functional PM leadership (like a VP of Product Management) to direct PM activities
  • Business unit leaders pursue different strategies or executive incentives drive different types of behavior, e.g. “Just launch it” vs. “build customer loyalty through the highest quality product”

The winning moves

  • Identify the differences by mapping existing processes and comparing tools and deliverables.  The Stage-Gate model or the forthcoming AIPMM framework might provide a good baseline.
  • Look for the differences that represent the greatest variation in results.  Which products are Sales and Support best/worst prepared for at launch?  Which products came out of development “on-time” vs. late?  At what point are weak ideas identified and killed?  Which products met their revenue/profitability expectations?
  • Collaborate with cross-functional and cross-divisional stakeholders to evaluate problem areas, set target improvement goals that reflect business drivers, identify best practices based on both internal success and industry best practices, and propose new standard processes.
  • If it’s unclear which process should become standard, consider running side-by-side tests of these parts of the product lifecyle, to identify which will be better to use across the organization.  Based on test results, select the better process.
  • Train all Product Management team members and key internal stakeholders on the standard processes.  Provide access to refresher training and tools.

The Prize

With a defined process applied consistently across the organization, your company not only becomes more efficient, it gains business agility.  Employees can more easily transfer to different business units and not spend as much time learning “how it’s done here”.

And when best practices are shared across the organization, product success rates go up, driving profitability and reducing risk.

Join us to identify your own best practices and learn a few more at our upcoming Product Management Intensive on November 17-18 .

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