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Sunday, June 29, 2014

What's my motivation?

I recently rediscovered the Cranky Product Manager and spent some time perusing her blog. A relatively recent post bemoans product managers that fail to define a product strategy. I’ve also experienced strategy-induced angst in the past but for more fundamental reasons. In my experience, terms like vision, mission and strategy have free-floating meetings that tend to create a lot of noise in related conversations as everyone involved has a slightly different intuition as to what each term means and how the concepts relate to each other. I was particularly irked at how often vision and strategy were used interchangeably. The first ray of hope I saw in addressing the fuzziness and resulting confusion around these terms was the Business Motivation Model (BMM) from the Object Management Group. This specification, updated in May of 2014, addresses the broader topic of what motivates business activity, wisely distinguishing between "means" (what an enterprise does) and "ends" (what an enterprise wants to be).

Here’s a quick rundown of the key concepts in the model with definitions copied from the spec (presented as an image from a PowerPoint I created. Thanks for the lack of tables Blogger. :P). I would highly recommend reading the entire spec -- it shows explicit relationships between these ideas and defines many more relevant concepts.

The following table, content copied from the spec, gives examples based on a car rental company.

I was recently asked to lead a working group that was revisiting an organization’s strategy. In the kickoff meeting, I introduced the OMG BMM and asked the team to adopt it as the framework for our deliverables. Being the reasonable folks they are, they agreed. One of the participants was familiar with the model and was glad to see us adopting it. Level-setting on they key concepts benefited the working group, comprising members of the board and extended board, in a few ways:
  • We avoided talking past each other based on subtly different definitions and expectations about the relationships between concepts
  • Understanding how objectives (measurable targets) are tied to the vision made it clear from the beginning that we would be able to measure progress once the motivation model was defined (the work group wasn’t engaged in busy work or making a token effort)
  • Clear understanding of the concepts allowed us to parallelize some of the work, although there are clearly dependencies between the concepts.
As a product manager, motivation has relevance at at least a couple of levels. You should seriously consider defining a motivation model based on the BMM for your product. You should socialize the model to ensure executive leadership and other stakeholders understand it and agree with it. Remember that your vision should inspire stakeholders. Goals and objectives should ground the vision, demonstrating that it is measurable and thus achievable.

You should also ask for a motivation model for your company, participating in its creation if you can. Once you have a motivation model at both the enterprise and product level, you can begin the (now) relatively straightforward exercise of aligning them. Does your product vision contribute to the company vision in an obvious way? If not, one of the visions probably needs to be revisited. Do your goals and objectives align fairly clearly with the organization’s goals and objectives? If not, you and management may have some soul searching to do. Other products’ motivation models can also help you rationalize strategic alignment at the portfolio level.

Wrapping up, the OMG BMM made me aware of the concept of motivation and defines clear concepts that I find highly valuable. Would love to see tooling that would capture instances of the model as described in the spec and facilitate the type of alignment I describe above. Were you aware of this model? Do you think it could be valuable for your product and organization?

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