5 Unusual product management techniques



5 unusual product management techniques every product manager might want to use


There are many techniques and frameworks to define a product, establish a roadmap and prioritize features.
From time to time I run into unique techniques that are a bit different than the popular methods most companies use.
Whenever I run into such a technique, I usually store it in one of my endless notes so I can use it sometimes to challenge myself or as a product exercise.
Here are 5 thought provoking techniques you may want to add to your product managment arsenal:


1. A page, a paragraph, a sentence 

This is an interesting exercise that startup founders and product leaders can use to describe their products in a short and concise way:

Start with a page: 

Write down all the important things about your brilliant product.
Limit yourself to one page.

Switch to a paragraph: 

This forces you to filter out some of the details and focus on the most important parts.
Once you have your paragraph ready - try it out as an elevator pitch in meetings and meetups, and see how it works.

End with a sentence: 

There are situations where a paragraph just doesn’t fit.
Whenever your product is mentioned somewhere or listed in a scrollable feed - these are the situations where you will want to have a short, catchy, well-polished sentence handy.

Unusual product management technique: a page, a paragraph, a page

This exercise will force you to shorten your usual story even further and express your product’s main idea in one short, catchy, scannable sentence.
[Source: a page, a paragraph, a sentence]


2. Building a roadmap out of problems

It’s very common to see roadmaps bloated with (too) many features.
Entrepreneurs and product leaders often jump too fast to the solution phase (even if just in high level) and fall in love with their features.
The “Problem Roadmap” includes business problems instead of features.
There are a few advantages to that technique:
  • Problems are easier to define and manage, even if only in high level. 
  • It’s easier to prioritize problems because they are less “emotional” than features (which kinds of eliminates the subjectivity factor). 
  • Problems force you to remain “customer-centric” all the way.
  • You can develop and ship tens of features and never solve a problem, which is bad. Problems, on the other hand, remain on your roadmap until they are truly solved for the customers. 
Here are 2 good articles about the “Problem Roadmap”:
The Problem Roadmap: Only build what matters to customers
The product roadmap is dead: welcome to the age of problem roadmaps
As always, keep in mind that the world is not black or white, and sometimes it might be reasonable to include specific features in the roadmap, especially when describing the short term plan.


There's more in here: 






3. Prioritizing themes instead of features

This one is pretty similar to the problem roadmap only here, you prioritize themes.
A theme, as described in this post by Ian McAllister from Airbnb, is a topic such as onboarding, retention, revenue per user, etc.
Working with themes means you set your priorities based on the “what” or the “end goal” without getting into the “how”. This means that just like the problems roadmap, you set your target based on topics and don’t let go until those topics are addressed.
Themes force you to prioritize based on the big picture and make sure you are aligned with the product vision and the company’s goals.
Read more about prioritizing themes in here.


4. The “Working Backward” approach 

This one can be used when defining features.
In short, you start from the end: the press release.
Imagine that your shiny new mega-feature was just released and your PR agency is asking you to send the material for the press release.
Unusual product management technique: the “Working Backward” approach

Here’s a proposed format, as described in this great article:
  • Heading and Sub-Heading: the name of the feature, who the market is and what benefits they get. Few words each.
  • Summary: Key paragraph with a summary of the product/feature and the benefits. 
  • Problem and solution: Describe the business problem and how the product/feature elegantly solves the problem.
  • Company Quote: A quote from a spokesperson in your company (you).
  • How to get started: Describe how easy it is to get started (optional).
  • Customer Quote: a quote from a hypothetical customer that describes how their experience and what benefits did they get from using the product. 
  • Closing and Call to Action: where should the readers go next.

This approach forces you to focus on the important things: the business problem and value and the customer point of view.
I think many product managers out there could benefit from trying out this technique and making sure they are aligned (from the very beginning) with what the customers will gain from releasing this feature.
(I’m pretty sure many features won't make it to the short list as a result…)
Read more about it in here: How to work backward.


5. Pixar’s Rules of Storytelling 

I found this technique in this article, talking about the Pixar’s Rules of Storytelling Applied to Product Managers & UX Designers. It’s based on Pixar’s 22 Rules of Storytelling and has a few rules every requirement should comply with.

The one that I liked the most is this story structure:
Unusual product management technique: Pixar's rules of storytelling

Try it out for a second, it’s a fun exercise:

Once upon a time there was ________. 
Every day, ________. 
One day ________. 
Because of that, ________. Because of that, ________. 
Until finally ________.

The “every day” part is the current pain, the “one day” part is your product, and the “because of that” sections describe the benefits of using the product or the features. “Until finally” is the part where the user gets the value he was looking for, that solves his original pain.


Steve jobs: The most powerful person in the world is the story teller. The storyteller sets the vision, values and agenda of an entire generation that is to come.


Summary: 

Defining products and prioritizing features can be done differently.
Unique approaches often provoke a different kind of thinking and can shed some new lights on your product.
If you are using another unusual method to structure your roadmap or prioritize features - drop me a note. I’d be more than happy to create a second part for this post.



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