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Mind the Product San Francisco 2019
July 15, 2019, San Francisco, USA
Mind the Product San Francisco 2019
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Be a Director, not a Manager by Fareed Mosavat
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Hello, good morning or good afternoon. I guess we all had lunch already. It's been great to be in this venue. Learn from all of you as well as our wonderful speakers. And so as Martin said, my name is pretty much about and I work at the product and its lack. But today, I want to talk about something from my past experience well before and hopefully inspire you to think about your role as product leaders in a different way. So let's start with every p.m. favorite question. What problem are we trying to solve over the last 20 years? I've seen an explosion in complexity and the quality

for the digital products that were building the expectation. For customers arising, just look at the difference between the first version of Facebook and what counts as a minimum viable first released, first stories today, it's not enough to just solve problems for customers. We have to stall, the elegantly, we have to solve them beautifully. We have to solve them intelligently and all and crowded and very very competitive markets. And the result is an explosion in the complexity on our team's. Think about all the people, the pieces that are in the equation today, we just heard from

someone about research. That was a role that didn't even exist seven or eight years ago. When I first started in product data, science and analytics, engineering front-end engineering back in engineering, machine learning Engineers. New framework complex, business models, all that we talked about today and you add into that like growth and different methodologies around design, Sprint and experimentation honestly it's incredible that we are able to build anything at all. Luckily we have so much history of management to sort of built on top of,

right? And in the industrial revolution, there are people like Daniel McCallum, who was the general manager and the president of the New York and Erie Railroad, who invented modern management. Like imagine that imagine a world where there was no such concept as management because it didn't mean to exist. He created the first or chart. That is a beautiful illustration of the word the first ever known org chart of that Railroad. And it's cuz no one had needed management before the Industrial Revolution sort of created new problems. And I think this change and digital in digital products is

also creating a new change for us. But lucky for lucky for us, he wrote down these principles of management. I don't expect you to read all these and I'm not going to read them to you. But look at the words that are highlighted. The words, he uses things like Power, Baseball, embarrass, subordinate, delinquent. These principles were designed for environments with well more well-known and puts more well-known output things like factories and railroads. And also, if I think the important thing to know is that these things were designed for a time. When people

accepted these kinds of rigid, hierarchy is not just at work but also inside their homes. so, But we still are trying to manage Creative Discovery and product development process. He's with a lot of these same mechanisms, right? We heard about the weekly reports dashboards metrics, okay? Are the measurements of velocity Advil at cetera at cetera, things that are designed to increase predictability to give us more and more understand like predictability about what's going to happen when and to control the process. I think back to all these different people,

what's different about them. You don't pay Silicon Valley, designers, Harvard, mbas, PhD data, scientist, 410x Engineers, as they like to be called massive salaries just to do what they're told and pull tickets off a backlogs. So what do we do instead? How can we keep hundreds of creative, smart people? Each of which have their different skills and background and expertise focused and aligned on a common goal? And where does the product manager fit in in all of this, right? The idea of being a generalist is knowing more about all these different pieces and telling a figuring out what

to do is basically impossible because no one can be an expert in two of these things. Never mind all of them. So how do we coordinate individual creativity to build incredible products and features year after year as these markets get harder and harder to break into? So I don't think that management is the solution. I think it's unfortunate that we put the word in our tight off. My claims that creative multidisciplinary and highly uncertain work, cannot just be mad and luckily, I know a better way. Because before I started working in startups, I thought done

differently. I asked Martin to leave certain part out of my bio which is that my first job out of college was that Pixar Animation Studios And before I'd ever heard the word product manager spoken, even before I knew what those words were, I got to be on the team that created Finding Nemo, cars, Wall-E, and up. Response Edward book about this and, president and founder of a Pixar, it's called creativity Inc. And it explains everything about how Pixar Works in excruciating detail. It's an

amazing, but it actually speaks to my experience there as just a lowly random engineer on a on these products. Really, really well, I don't know a lot about how the inner workings of those executive teams operated. This isn't a summary of the book. That's not what I'm here to talk about. Instead, I want to talk about three lessons that I learned there that I've held with me, through every single rule that I've had since the three lessons that I believed her most impacted how adults and run product teams, over the past 10 years across all different kinds of companies. I've had the pleasure of

working on consumer products, B2B product like slack Fitness marketplaces games and them film. But a couple of things are always in common, especially when you're trying to bring creative people together to do amazing work. so I think these are, the three fundamental and often forgotten rolls of great product leaders to that I learned them from film directors. I didn't know it at the time, but it turns out the role of a film director and animation, director is a lot like a great product manager. No one reports to them. They don't control any budget, the producer does, and

they don't do any of the, you know, what you would call actual work, but they're altimate Lee responsible. For the final product, right? And they do this in these three ways. Number one, the caliph, great story that your team can remember and can rally behind number 2. They allow and unlock creative freedom. So that every single person who touches something is able to contribute to that, end product in their own way. And three the brain in that chaos, that connect the dots between the big picture story, and the individual creativity of each of those people through their feedback.

Don't, let's start with storytelling. I think I think there was a workshop yesterday about storytelling. I, when I first started in project management, I remember thinking to myself, I am not a great Storyteller and the reason was because what I thought of, as a great Storyteller with people, like Andrew Stanton, the director of Finding Nemo, and, and of Lolly. And he is a master Storyteller. I want to play a quick clip of him, pitching a part of Finding Nemo by 6 year old son Nemo who's it's from the accident with a barracuda and he swims really erratically and

strangely but today all over the place because the school he's on site to this is the day he's been waiting for this is the day that the father has been dreading, because his unstressed is lack of trust, is fear of the ocean, everything is just coming to the surface, has Mister Ray, who's the scientist Centric, Stingray teacher, who likes to bring all the kids out in the field trip for the ring from the first day of school? so, What stands out about Andrew's pitch anything in particular? Enthusiasm excitement. He gives you just enough details that you can paint

a picture of what's happening in your mind. I think I imagined almost all of you seen the film or imagining that first seen edema bouncing around what it's about, he has just enough of detail to let you see something but it's still so vague. He hasn't told you exactly what happens. Frame-by-frame what it's going to be, he brilliantly also brings you along on the cultural, the central conflict of the film, The anxiety of a father versus The Adventurous Spirit of his son and he brings you along with that. So, if you want to, I want teams to bring the best everyday. If you want people to

know to understand what it takes to make great decisions, you have to pitch your product story, which it with a motion with confidence with energy, like, Andrew dies and user stories, don't fucking count, they're not stories, it's right there. Just called stories. What was the last time? You ready, user story or product that actually tried to convince you? What was the last time you heard a pitch that move the team to action that lot that in my experience? Most people believe that logic alone can make the case for what their product is. We validated this we thought about that, we have

this proof, we have this experiment but people can be convinced by Logic but they're almost never moved by it. Logic is necessary but it's not sufficient to motivate creative people to act. So here's a silly example from a gross team that I have helped run in the past. It's kind of a rough example that's the story, that's what we're trying to do that. The business impact this team is responsible for the what do you actually trying to do? And I don't think this is a great story. I whooped it up in a few minutes but our mission is to help every

customer discover house that can improve their work within the first day you can go back to your office and practice this today, you'll have to be as good as Andrew Stanton to help your team's connect for the product story, which of these is more likely to motivate someone to have lasting impact. The holding someone's mind so that they know what decisions to make as they're working through hard things. It's not as exciting as the opening scene of Finding Nemo but it's at least a step in the right direction. What's the number to is about creative freedom? So here's a

quote from Ed catmull, creativity must be present at every level of every artistic and Technical part of the organization and they lived and breathed this, we live them. So ask yourself, do you get great ideas from every single member of your team? Every single day, do your teams have enough Independence to act on those ideas as they come or they can fine to your quarterly brainstorms? Are you bring people in a room and stick them up on a board and then throw them away and never do anything with it again. So how do you actually do this? So what can you actually do on your team

to Beyond of hiring smart people? Which is obviously a precondition to this did doing this kind of work. So let's work with an example. This is a thing called a color script. I think you probably know exactly what film. This is just by looking at it from The Incredibles and this is designed to give the lighting team in understanding of the overall look and feel from the beginning to the end of the film that sort of the the emotional journey through color. And what's so interesting about this to me is that it has specificity in the places that matter and is incredibly

loose and open in the places that aren't what this is trying to solve its Ruffin loose everywhere else passed, it sort of like chunky, it doesn't have a lot of detail, but these colors are exactly correct. They are exactly the colors. If you were to open that film up that you would see there at the bar for Quality Craft and business results rise as product leaders. Our instincts drive us towards more specificity to be more prescriptive. The opposite is what I think you actually need to do. Over. Specification isn't just a problem because it takes extra time which is what

we hear a lot and sort of like you know, product development methodologies. Don't overprescribed, things, might change but I don't think it's just about the change. It's also about stifling creativity. If you spec a product back with every single detail of every single interaction, your designer doesn't have any room to add anything and their natural. Human instinct will be to deliver what you ask for, if a designer tells an engineer, exactly how everything should look at. How every frame of an animation should work out, they're not going to help find something new, they may be inclined to

just tell you what the bid is going to cost to move forward. My main thought here is that you should get to the next Hill, you should give just enough information in your specs in your product store in those user stories to help people get to the next most important pill that helps you move to the next step and as little as possible for everything else last week, it better leave your hands better than you found it. Not just to do your own work, but the add something creative

to do some great work on top of it because this is what can we do. An unexpected and wonderful directions on these products. These films aren't Imagine by director is looking this way, they're built by every single person along the way. so, At this point you might be thinking like okay that's all sounds really good and high Brown, exciting, I should tell a great story, I'll loosen up a bit. I won't write such detailed specs, I let my teams figure things out but that sounds a lot like a house, right? Like, how is anything actually going to get

done? How do you keep a bunch of smart motivated, intense creative, people pointed in the right direction? And this one seems obvious but the answer is with feedback that this is the primary role of a film director and I think it's one of the primary roles of a product manager. So couple of rules that I've Define for myself based on that experience. The first one is really hard review before it's ready. I think a lot of specially early career people really want to hold on to things until they looked right? I think this is a huge mistake because it raises the cost of the work but also

raises the cost of the feedback. If I give you feedback on something that you've taken to a 90%, I'm going to be disinclined to roll back to rethink. First principles because it's going to take more time, it's going to take more work. It's going to get in the way so you have to get it things in front of people early and often and for that. I think the second the second piece is so important frequency. I think one of the biggest mistakes that product teams do is they make feedback hard to get. You have to sign up for a product review with the head of design and the c p l o in

the VP of engineering needs to be there too. So it can only be once every 2 weeks ago and there's only three 20 minutes so you don't have time to sign up in order to get feedback. So it So important to you, that you end up taking things to nine out of ten, right? So you have to make it frequent, you have to be able to walk by, you need to be able to sign up easily. You need to be able to do things every single day and build a culture of feedback in your team. So think about how you could use your stand up instead of just a review status but also to review

work as soon as possible. See what it looks like everyday. The next is giving feedback holistically and at the right zoom level. I think they actually a great example of where we go wrong on. This is tools like Google Docs, which encourage you to edit to like give feedback on individual sentences instead of the structure of the document, the theme of it, the importance of it. How do you do that? Inside of a comment in Google Docs, you don't our tools are sort of encouraging us to give nitpicky detailed feedback. Instead of holistic feedback at the correct zoom level

that pushes people in the right direction and leave their creative freedom. So, the last one is reviewing in public. I think that's one of the hardest for a lot of teams especially his companies get bigger because you're inclined to say, like, I don't want to give hard feedback to this junior designer in p.m. in a, in a room where there's lots of other people around, they're going to feel embarrassed, they're going to feel hurt. But what you do when you do that, if you take away the gift of that feedback from everyone else in the room from all the other people who also need to

make those decisions, we have to get into your head, understand what you're thinking about how you're connecting the. And that's a super important thing at Pixar. Most reviews are open door or at least at the time I was there. Anybody on the team could join them here and help you solve problems in the future? So these are the lessons that I've held with me from Pixar. They've helped me personally become a much better product leader From Andrew, I learn how to tell a great story that teams going to lie around. from that, I

learned how to unlock creative freedom, their looser, specification, the expectation, everybody can contribute to that end product, And finally, we lived, we breathe in a continuous feedback process that help connect the dots between the stories that we were telling an individual creativity of every single person on the team. so, I sure love to talk with McCallum. He's often considered, you know, the Godfather of modern management and what does it mean to manage a product

along the same lines? But I think we made this drug a bunch of times. Today people often call product manager CEO of the product but you don't control any resources, you probably don't have any direct reports and unlike McCallum you actually need variance you need creativity. You need change. The plans from your team in order to adapt to this environment. Unlike most CEOs, you can actually be fired. If you screw this up, are you still responsible for the output of the team, right? Just like a film director. So Want to leave you with this. Great product

leaders. Are not managers. It's only a part of the job, great, and product leaders should be directors. So, good luck on all the products story that you helped bring to life and thank you for listening.

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