An Updated “Brain of a Sales Droid” Diagram

An Esteemed Member of the Crankerati  did something awesome.

He re-drew the Cranky Product Manager’s pitiful, hand-drawn “Brain of a Sales Droid” diagram (see old version here), so he could print it on a T-shirt and wear it to Sales Kick-off (brave man!).

And voila!  The redrawn pic is actually LEGIBLE. That means you can now READ the text, which was pretty impossible before. WICKED AWESOME.  (Plus it has a minor update, to highlight Droids’ near-universal and newfound obsession with Tesla sedans).

So, here it is. Once again. The Enterprise Software Sales Droid’s Brain, as viewed from Product Management:


No Excuses Product Management (Part 4) – Do Yer Damn Product Strategy Already

LAME-ASS PRODUCT MANAGEMENT EXCUSE #3: “I’m too busy to work on product strategy.”

The one REALLY gets the Cranky PM’s scowl going, enough that she’s considering Botox simply to appear more slightly more pleasant and plastic and less sarcastic and cranky.  Too bad there are no injections to prevent eye rolling.

Grrr. Too busy to NOT work on product strategy, is more like it.

Sure, as a product manager you’re fighting fires and constantly bombarded with emails and phone calls and meetings and X and Y and … That’s life in the big city.

Whatev, we all deal with it. Rumor is that Product Management is a leading cause of Adult ADD.

The simple fact, though, is that if the Product Manager doesn’t do the product strategy, well, WHO THE HELL DOES?  Perhaps you are expecting a visit from the Product Strategy Fairy – expecting her to leave some market trend analysis under your pillow?

Ok, ok, if you’re at a release 1.0 startup, the Cranky Product Manager will give you a pass on this one, because often the founder knows the problem space.

Seriously, the job of Product Management is to make sure the team is scaling the right freakin’ mountain. You might be a demo genius, ..



Common Product Management Fuck-Ups That Strike Even the Experienced

Common Product Management Fuck-Ups That Strike Even the Experienced

  1. Acting like a Requirements Monkey.
  2. Punting on strategy.
  3. Not focusing on a particular target market.
  4. Not meeting with enough customers often enough.
  5. Not meeting with prospects and non-customers often enough.
  6. Not truly understanding the real problems faced by your target market.
  7. Hearing only what you want to hear.
  8. Being afraid to draw pictures.
  9. Writing a Magnum Opus of a requirements doc or strategy doc, primarily to cover your ass.
  10. Forgetting to incorporate features into your product that help you measure success or failure, and thereby improve over time.
  11. Going along with a development process that can't adjust when faced with negative market feedback
  12. Becoming Development's Co-Dependent, and having them come to you about the placement of every freakin' pixel.
  13. Allowing a piece of shit to ship.
  14. Making the product hard to buy or up-edition.
  15. Thinking that landing reference customers for a new product/release is someone else's job.
  16. Letting the release treadmill create a "boat anchor" editioning and pricing situation.
  17. Assuming that everyone that stands in your way is an asshole or a political player.
  18. Neglecting to spend the time building rapport and credibility with engineers.

Market Interviews Gone Bad #5: Stymied!

And now a market interview where the product manager hasn’t done anything wrong (yet).
Esteemed Crankerati, what’s your advice about what a PM can do to salvage this interview?
Product Management: Market Interviews

(NOTE: if you received this post via email, your probably can’t see the embedded image (the comic). So click on the link to view it on the website. Thx!)

Market Interviews Gone Bad #4: Too Creepy

This is a two-panel comic, so make sure you scroll down.

Maybe you should leave these personal questions until the end, along with an explanation as to why you are asking. Better yet, try to find out via natural, non-creepy conversation that comes up in the course of the interview by being a nice, friendly person. Finally, better to not find out than to be creepy or pushy. Remember, you might want to contact this person again for more insight.

(Note: If you are receiving this post via email, you probably can’t see the embedded image. Click on the link to view the comic on the website.)

The Cranky Product Manager is Back…. Presenting “Market Interviews GONE BAD, Part 1″

Ever wonder why so many startup entrepreneurs put out misguided and doomed products, EVEN AFTER attempting to take four steps toward an epiphany and drinking the “Lean Startup” Kool-Aid?

Market Interviews Gone BAD: Too Vested To Listen

****Face Palm****

Alas, the Cranky Product Manager has witnessed similar “attempts” at market validation too many times to count. Maybe they could use some help from a real product manager.

Cranky Product Manager #Fail.

The Cranky Product Manager sincerely apologizes, but there will be no book. No tome entitled ‘Product Management, the Cranky Way’.

This was an effort that so many of you generously supported via KickStarter, and the Cranky Product Manager is so very sorry to let you down. She is also deeply disappointed in herself.

Writing this book was a long-term dream of the Cranky Product Manager. She really wanted to share what she’s learned about product management, and maybe share some of the humor and pain as well. She was motivated to contribute to the field and the profession she loved.

But, alas, the book has defeated the Cranky Product Manager. There are many reasons, but it’s mostly because she’s a working mom with a demanding job, plus two small children for whom she is primary caretaker. The family is her absolute top priority, and the job is second because it helps keep a roof over their heads and food on the table. All attempts to fit other, lower priority activities — like writing — into the schedule have left the Cranky Product Manager feeling extremely overextended, stressed out, and sleep deprived, which meant she couldn’t be at her best for her family, colleagues, or customers.

The situation is unlikely to change for some years because the kids are still small. To finish this book in the near future, the CPM would have to see a lot less of her family, and that feels like the exact opposite of what her kids need right now.

The other major reason? The Cranky Product Manager sucks at writing books. She can’t keep such a large thing in her head at once, and this caused all kinds of problems, resulting in an unreadable 600-page blob at one point. If you’re interested in the details, you’ll find them in the "FAQ" at the bottom of this post.

In hindsight, the Cranky Product Manager should have realized that writing a book was too ambitious at this point in life. When she hatched this KickStarter campaign in 2012, she had only returned to full-time work just two weeks earlier, after a maternity leave and working part-time for several months. Already, she was already having difficulty keeping up with the blog. Why the Cranky Product Manager thought a book would be less time-consuming than a blog can only be chalked up to extreme naivete!

And so again, the Cranky Product Manager sincerely apologizes. She knows that you all believed in her, and you all supported her. She’s so sorry to let you down, and so disappointed in herself. She expects many of you will be angry, and she finds that very understandable. She takes full responsibility. She will do what it takes to make it right for each and every one of you. She hopes that you will eventually forgive her.

So this is what is going to happen.

  1. You’ll get back 100% of the money you contributed. Because KickStarter does not have a built-in way to refund money, it will be a semi-manual process that will take a few weeks. The Cranky Product Manager strongly prefers to do refunds via PayPal transfers, to avoid even more transaction fees (she’s already in the hole from KickStarter fees), but if that won’t work for you, we’ll find another way.

    • Within a week, she’ll contact you via a Kickstarter survey, to gather the details needed to send you money via PayPal.
    • If PayPal won’t work for you, make sure you tell me in the survey. I’ll then contact you individually so we can figure out another way to get money to you, even if I have to mail cash in a paper envelope.
    • WARNING: the refund process will take a few weeks (money has to be moved around and there are waiting periods, plus there’s a lot of manual bookkeeping involved), but it should be all done before Christmas.
  2. The Cranky Product Manager will occasionally publish content over the next year, but it will not be in a big book. Instead, it will be in long articles and e-books that each focus on a specific topic (such as Market Feedback Programs or Doing Product Strategy). After all, the Cranky Product Manager did write a bunch of stuff already, and she doesn’t want it to completely go to waste.

    But the CPM now realizes that she cannot make any promises about dates, given that this is basically a hobby and will always be lower priority than family and job.

    Note that as a former supporter of this project, you will be entitled to any e-books for free. If you want, she’ll email you a note when they are ready.

  3. Last but not least, the Cranky Product Manager thanks you. Even though she never managed to write this thing, the research and writing process made her a far more knowledgeable and capable product leader. At the beginning, she had a lot of experience and practical knowledge, but writing forced her to dissect all her beliefs about product management under a microscope and learn more — lots more. She researched deeply, learned from others, and did on-the-job experiments. As a result, she has made some big changes to the way she "does" product management, and is much more effective and knowledgeable than before.

Thank you for the opportunity you gave me and for your generous support. I sincerely regret that I was unable to deliver.

FAQ on the Failure of the Cranky Book

Q: What did the Cranky Product Manager find so difficult about writing a book versus writing shorter articles?

A book can hold a lot of stuff, and somehow the Cranky Product Manager thought she’d be able to stuff everything — yes, everything — she knows about product management into just one book. Alas, turns out she could fill around 10 books.

Having too much to say led to much difficulty structuring the book and letting go of the non-essential. Because she only had time to work on the book sporadically, she’d go sometimes go 5-20 days between writing sessions, and would then forget what she had already written. For instance, she’d forget that she had already introduced a topic, and so would introduce it again in a different section.

Result: the book soon became a big rats’ nest of overlapping content and unconnected topics without a central narrative. At one point, the book had ballooned up to 600 pages (mostly bullet points, alas), and read like The World’s Most Boring yet Schizophrenic PRD.

At other points, the writing process made the Cranky Product Manager realize she didn’t know a topic as well as she thought. So, she’d go off and extensively research, say, product editioning, metrics-based Product Management, end-of-life best practices, or whatnot. But then she couldn’t bring herself to actually write about these new ideas without first trying them out for real, on the job. And in trying them out, she’d learn so much more and have new ideas that she wanted to try out and write about….and so on and so on…Result? More delays.

Finally, a proper structure for this book never emerged despite dozens and dozens of attempts.

Q: Why didn’t the Cranky Product Manager apply what she knows about Product Management to the writing of this book?

Excellent question, dear reader. The same thought has popped into the Cranky Product Manager’s head on many occasions. The irony is super thick. As the Cranky Product Manager wrote about the virtues of Agile, she ensnared herself in a very Waterfall approach to writing. And not surprisingly, the results were similar to what she’s seen with many waterfall projects: bloated, poor usability, where the product does not "hang together properly," and then the product ultimately fails.

In retrospect, it seems obvious that she should have used a more Agile approach, doing one chapter — or even smaller — at a time, releasing early drafts instead of fully baked chapters, soliciting frequent feedback, etc. In fact, a few readers explicitly recommended she go Agile after the second schedule slip.

So, why did the Cranky Product Manager resist "going Agile"?

  1. Rightly or wrongly, the Cranky Product Manager viewed the book as "Art" more than "Product." With Art, the artist has a vision of what he/she wants to create, achieve, and give to the world. The satisfaction of realizing the creative vision, which was fully born and germinated inside the artist’s head alone–without compromise driven from the outside–is what drives artists. The desire to achieve her specific artistic vision is what drove the Cranky Product Manager in this endeavor. It was what drove the blog, as well.

  2. She believed an Agile process would suck the humor right out of the book.. The Cranky Product Manager knows damn well that her snarky-assed sense of humor/tragedy is the only thing that distinguishes her blog from countless others on Product Management, and is the only reason this book ever got funding. So the book had to be funny. But all humor relies on SURPRISE. There’s a reason why comedians don’t do Beta tests with their actual audience. The Cranky Product Manager worried that putting out early partial drafts, before she had fully figured out the jokes, would suck the humor right out of the book.

The Cranky Product Manager now realizes the folly of at least #1. But for #2, she is still not sure. With Agile methods, she might have been able to deliver a decent book. But it probably would not have been funny.