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Friday, October 23, 2015

Reflections on (almost) a Year of Teaching Product Management

2015 is the first year that I delivered a software product management course that I developed. Aside from practical lessons in "instructional design"  and course promotion, experience with a multitude of students, both in public and "in-house" trainings, has given me insights into commonalities in PM experiences across countries, industries and company sizes and some surprises about the content that resonates most with folks.In terms of shared experience, it's clear to me now that most product managers are so mired in operational concerns that they've lost the reflex to take two steps back and think strategically. It's extremely gratifying to see people in the relative quiet of a classroom begin scribbling notes about strategic aspects of running a product they probably hadn't thought about in some time. Since most of my students were European, where product management maturity lags the US, it was also interesting to see them realize that they should be playing a clear leadership role in their organizations (and that no one will simply hand them that charter).
When I designed the course, I was concerned that participants would quickly become bored with theory, preferring insight on operational aspects of being a product manager. What I've found is that most practicing product managers have found their operational rhythm and can expect, at best, incremental improvements in this area. Much to my surprise, discussions about formally capturing "business motivation"  (vision, mission, objectives etc.) and aligning it across the organization generate much more discussion than approaches to release planning or managing requirements. This was a pleasant surprise as I believe thinking strategically is what separates most great product managers (and maybe professionals in general) from the rest.
BTW, at the "meta-level", I was surprised at how much value highly experienced software product managers got from an intensive three days of thinking about their job holistically. It turns out that this broad perspective (based on the ISPMAFramework) reminds them of aspects they don't typically think about and allows them to self-organize their accountabilities and priorities.If you're a practicing product manager or thinking about joining this profession, consider taking a course, even if it's billed as "basic" or "foundational". Getting out of the office and spending some time with folks who are facing similar challenges can be a great investment of a few days.
Originally posted on LinkedInYou can find out more about me and my offerings on my site.

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