My inspirations

David Hockney – English painter, draftsman, printmaker, stage designer, and photographer.

Donna Haraway – Scholar and author on questions of science and feminism.

Donella Meadows – environmental scientist, educator, and writer.

Gilles Deleuze – French philosopher.

Malcolm Knowles – adult educator, famous for the adoption of the theory of andragogy, and influencer in the development of the Humanist Learning Theory and the use of learner constructed contracts or plans to guide learning experiences.

Mary Parker Follett – social worker, management consultant, philosopher and pioneer in the fields of organizational theory and organizational behaviour.

Nina Simone – singer, songwriter, pianist, and civil rights activist.

On becoming good compost

If, after I’ve gone, what I’ve left behind others things can grow from, then my life has been a success.

This is my life goal. To live life in a way leaves behind good things that other things can grow from, and not too many bad things that might prevent other things from growing.

For me, this means two things.

Physical, real world stuff of limiting my climate impact, not using planes for travel, reducing my belongings and choosing things that can be easily disposed of. Not adding to future generations to further stretch our planet’s finite resources.

Intellectual, always indebted to the work of others, building on ideas, adding to the fertile soil for future ideas. Questioning, curious, critical and creative.

“We are all compost”

 – Donna Haraway

Charity product model canvas – iteration 3

Charity product canvas

About the canvas

Start in the middle

“Who are you trying to help?” puts users at the centre. Without a clearly defined user or group of users it’s almost impossible to to answer any of the other problem/solution questions.

Problem side

“What problem are you trying to solve?” helps focus in on the problem that group of users has that is big enough to need a solution.

“What challenges stop people solving the problem in other ways?” makes you think more broadly, consider the context, and understand other solutions and how satisfactory they are. Without this, there is the risk of building a solution no one will use.

“How will people find the solution?” is about acquisition and marketing, because without knowing how people will find the solution, it’s unlikely they will and so it won’t be used.

“How will people access the solution?” prompts thinking about which channels the solution will be delivered over.

Solution side

“What might things look like if the problem was solved?” provides a guiding outcome that people could experience if the solution works.

“How might you be able to solve the problem?” is the space for possible solutions that

“What will you need to be able to solve the problem?” lists the resources necessary to build the solutions and acts as a reality check. If those resources aren’t available then the solution can be re-thought to be within the available resources.

Using the canvas

As with all canvases, completing it isn’t a linear process of going from one box to the next. Defining who you are trying to help is a good place to start, but as things are added to each box it should prompt ideas of things to add to other boxes and question things that have already been added.

The exercise of completing a canvas is to prompt questions, challenge assumptions, and iterate on ideas until a shared understanding is reached. Many things on the canvas might start out as best guesses but should be validated throughout the product development process so the canvas represents the reality of the problem and solution. The more not-yet validated assumptions the canvas has, the less likely the product will succeed.

If the problem-side boxes can’t be fully answered, then the problem isn’t well understood and needs research to understand it better.

If the solution-side boxes can’t be fully answered, then the solution needs prototyping and feedback to be validated.

Previous iterations:

Strategy one-pager for system-shifting product management

Goal

What do I want to achieve?

Product managers in social/third sector organisations use a system-shifting approach to build products that tackle wicked problems and create lasting social change.

Rationale

Why is this the right goal?

Using a system-shifting approach has the potential to inform building products that create lasting social change because it focuses on wider systems awareness and effects rather than on user behaviour, and is more fit-for-purpose for product management in the social/third sector.

Hypothesis

How do I think the goal can be achieved?

If product managers learn system-shifting tools and techniques, then they can apply it to product development and management to create products that create lasting social change.

Methods

What will I do to test the hypothesis?

Create a landing page/white paper/manifesto to introduce system-shifting product management and try to help people understand it.

Write blog posts about system-shifting product management to explore the emerging ideas in the open.

Create an email course that teaches the tools and techniques of system-shifting product management.

Promote the email course on social media to attract product managers to sign-up.

Measures

How will I know if my hypothesis is correct?

Number of email course sign-ups.

Feedback on the email course.

Page views of blog posts.

Replies on social media.

Results

How will I know I’ve achieve the goal?

Contribution, not attribution. I won’t know if product managers are applying the system-shifting product management tools and techniques in their work, but by introducing them to the ideas I can contribute to product management practices that are more fit for social/third sector organisations and contexts.

Simple steps for more strategic thinking: cohesion

I like Rumelt’s definition of strategy as ‘a coherent response to a significant challenge’. It breaks what is an often vaguely talked about thing into four distinct aspects. There has to be a challenge. That challenge has to be significant. You have to choose to respond to that significant challenge. And your response has to be cohesive.

If there isn’t a significant challenge, you don’t need to be strategic about how you respond. If you aren’t going to respond to the challenge, you don’t need a strategy. If your response isn’t cohesive, you aren’t thinking strategically about it.

If you want to respond cohesively to a significant challenge then you need a strategy. And if you want to think more strategically you can figure out what your significant challenge is and how to create a cohesive response.

Cohesion often seems to be the one that gets missed when deciding how to respond to a significant challenge.

This help us be more strategic about all kinds of challenges that are significant to us. Got lots of things to do (the challenge)? Group them together into themes of similar tasks and you’re already creating a more cohesive response to that challenge than tackling those tasks as separate individual items.

Thinking about ways of connecting, ordering, grouping things starts to add more cohesion, which invariably leads to a better response.

What’s the difference between a product and a service?

How might we understand what a service is, what a product is, how they are similar and how they differ?

Building on Lou Downe’s brilliant work in Good Services, we start with the definition, “A service helps someone do something”. True, but so does a spoon. Does that make it a service? The important part in that definition is the ‘doing’. Using a service is an activity, it requires the the user to actively do something, and as an activity it inherently has a limited timeframe. So time is important in defining a service too.

Starting with Jon Cutler’s work on defining a product as the value chain within an organisation that takes organisational resources and packages them up in a way that facilitates a value exchange with the user, the important part is the value exchange, the user gets something of value when they use a product.

These give us the definitions:

A service helps someone do something they want to do, at a time the organisation wants to do it.

A product helps someone get something they want to get, at the time they want to get it.

The different characteristics that we use to differentiate between a product and a service are ‘doing’ versus ‘getting’, and ‘at the time the user wants’ vs ‘at the time the organisation providing the service wants’.

A product means a user gets something of value to them, because there is a value exchange with the organisation providing the product. The value the user gets can be the physical product they own, but it’s also things like emotional value and social status.

The user should get something valuable/useful from using the service, but the service itself isn’t of value in the same way as a product is.

A product, because it is in a sense more ‘owned’ than ‘rented’, is available to the user whenever they want it to be. That’s a bit more obvious for physical products like a car, but it also applies to a digital product. For a service, the organisation providing the service is in control of the times that service is available. It may decide to provide the service 24/7, as with a digital service, but equally it could only do so at more limited times, like with an in-person service at a particular location.

The similarities are that both help the user, and what they are helping to user with remains vague so as to be as broad as possible.

Thanks to our amazing service designers, Jess and Katie, for asking the questions and inspiring the thinking.

Retrospective June 2022

The lesson for this month is that your focus isn’t always up to you. Sometimes things happen that demand your attention and you can’t say no to.

Contributing to the digital transformation of the non-profit sector

Working at a national non-profit organisation to embed product thinking and practice

It’s been an interesting month with lots of change but I’m making progress on my strategy in a few ways.

Participating in online communities for social good, innovation, product and digital

Slight possible progress on this goal with the idea of hosting show and tells for charities to share work in progress. Guess we’ll see if anything comes of it.

Continually developing my knowledge, skills and practice

Formal education

Didn’t do anything on my BSL course, on the Gitlab Remote Working course. I really need to go give them some time next month.

Informal learning

I didn’t do much on my side-projects as I’m still getting into the flow of being on the road but I’m really keen to work on my Ambivalent MBA on Charity in the 21st century in July.

Irregular Ideas has 43 subscribers. I’ve moved it on to Substack after an issue with Revue. Need to decide whether to keep it on Substack or move the email and website on Mailerlite.

Reflective practice

I wrote weeknotes on schedule every week.

Leading an intentional life

Lifestyle

My nomadic life along the coastline has resumed. I’m back in Wales and slowly visiting lots of beaches. I’ve seen a seal and a couple of dolphins.

Health & well-being

I’m still not doing enough to improve my physical health.

Financial independence

Runaway reduced this month due to some unexpected expenses but still pretty healthy.

How the charity sector sees the role of a product manager

Introduction

This short study is intended to offer some observations about how the role of the product manager is perceived across the charity sector. It is not in anyway to criticise the job descriptions used by charities in advertising these roles as the best job descriptions are surely those that accurately describe the job. The intention here is to consider whether, and if anything what, the job descriptions might be able to tell us about what charities expect from product managers.

Twenty three charity sector product roles advertised in May and June 2022 were included in the study. All of the job ads were used to create a list of thirty three characteristics, and then each job analysed against the list.

Observations

All of the role descriptions fitted within the generally accepted role that product management plays within an organisation, that of bringing together user needs, organisational goals and using technology to achieve them.

Within the roles there is variety about the purpose of the role. Some were more focused on managing technology to achieve organisational goals with little mention of user needs, whilst others were focused on organisational goals (even if these weren’t defined in the job ad) with little mention of the technologies. Understanding user problems and meeting user needs was the least mentioned. Perhaps this results from an assumption that the organisation already understands its user’s needs and intends to improve how they are meet through technology, or because the concept of being user-centred hasn’t been adopted.

All of the roles, even the senior and ‘head of’ level, were very focused on delivery. There was very little mention of developing business models, validating market assumptions, or other strategic product work. This may suggest that, whilst charities are adopting more technology and recognising the need to manage it, they are still yet to adopt more contemporary digital approaches and product thinking.

Analysis

What product management roles are called

Different role titles used in the job ads.

  • For 23 roles there were 14 unique job titles, 19 if those titles include the product in brackets, e.g. (CRM)
  • 47.83% roles had unique titles, including Head of Product Management, Head of Product Delivery, Lead Digital Product Manager, Senior Product Development Lead, Senior Digital Product Manager, Senior Product Development Officer, Senior Product Development Lead, Innovation and Product Development Manager, Web Product Manager, Digital Product Owner and Junior Product Manager
  • 21.74% of the roles had the job title Product Manager
  • 13.04% used the title Digital Product Managers
  • 8.70% were called Product Owners

How much product managers are paid

Salaries of product management roles specified in the job ads.

  • The average salary is £45,976.45, from twenty two of the roles as one did not specify the salary
  • The lowest salary mentioned was £27,000 and the highest was £83,000
  • Of the two ‘Head of’ level roles the salary ranged from £48,231 to £83,000
  • Senior level roles averaged £44,300
  • Individual contributor roles averaged £45,865

What product managers work on

Different types of products the job ads suggest product managers will work on.

  • 91.30% of product managers would work on existing products
  • 34.78% would be working on building new products
  • 65.22% would work on external facing products
  • 26.09% working on internal products
  • 52.17% of the ads mention an outcome or goal the product manager would be aiming to achieve with the product

How product managers work

Working practices mentioned in the job ads.

  • 52.17% of the roles ask the product manager to be user-centric, to understand user needs, but only 26.09% would be involved in user research
  • 52.17% would be expected to monitor the performance of the product
  • 39.13% would use continuous improvement and iterative development
  • 30.43% mention using agile practices

What product managers are responsible for

Aspects of managing a product that the product manager would have responsibility for.

  • 86.96% would be managing stakeholder relationships
  • 60.87% would be managing supplier relationships
  • 52.17% would be responsible for managing projects
  • 34.78% had line management responsibility. Two heads of product, three senior product managers and three product managers
  • 34.78% would be responsible for managing the budget for the product
  • 30.43% would be responsible for product strategy
  • 26.09% would manage the product roadmap
  • 26.09% would be responsible for prioritising work on the product
  • 17.39% would be responsible for product vision

What skills do product managers need

Skills and characteristics mentioned in the job ads.

  • 65.22% would need communication skills
  • 34.78% would be to be analytical
  • 26.09% need to be able to cope in a fast-paced and rapidly changing environment
  • 26.09% need influencing skills
  • 13.04% would need a growth mindset to succeed
  • 13.04% need negotiating skills
  • 8.70% need facilitation skills
  • 8.70% need to be creative
  • One role required the candidate to have a PhD in biology and others required particular specialist knowledge relating to the business model for the product, e.g., licensing

Retrospective May 2022

It’s been a challenging month in many ways so almost everything has been on pause. Sometimes big blockers hinder progress and the only to way to deal with them is to wait them out.

Contributing to the digital transformation of the non-profit sector

Working at a national non-profit organisation to embed product thinking and practice

Been progressing a few projects but not making the progress I expected to by now. June is likely to be the same but hopefully July will bring more clarity.

Participating in online communities for social good, innovation, product and digital

No progress on this goal.

Continually developing my knowledge, skills and practice

Formal education

Didn’t do anything on my BSL course, on the Gitlab Remote Working course. I’ve been thinking a little about doing a management course.

Informal learning

I didn’t do much on my side-projects but I’m really keen to give my Ambivalent MBA on Charity in the 21st century more time. It’s an exciting idea in lots of ways, using agile education to create and study your own course.

Irregular Ideas is going well and has 39 subscribers. Still enjoying writing it although I have no idea where it’s going.

Reflective practice

I wrote weeknotes on schedule every week.

Leading an intentional life

Lifestyle

My nomadic life along the coastline was on pause. Back soon.

Health & well-being

I’m still not doing enough to improve my physical health.

Financial independence

Runaway at 42 months.

Product management is…

  • the application of the scientific method to solve user problems and achieve organisational goals.
  • a varied, dynamic field that significantly impacts organizations and their stakeholders. Product managers combine user-focus, business savvy, and tech expertise to create strong product outcomes. – Hotjar
  • managing the value chain that enables an organisation to exchange value with it’s customers and users.
  • an organizational function that guides every step of a product’s lifecycle — from development to positioning and pricing — by focusing on the product and its customers first and foremost. – Atlassian
  • the practice of strategically driving the development, market launch, and continual support and improvement of a company’s products. – Product Plan
  • a role within a product development team that focuses on successfully executing the product lifecycle. – The Product Manager
  • the business process of planning, developing, launching, and managing a product or service. It includes the entire lifecycle of a product, from ideation to development to go to market. – Wikipedia
  • looking after a specific product within a business. – Product Focus
  • vital to delivering innovations and driving business growth. It is an important organizational role that is growing in popularity. – Aha

A collection of different ideas and statements about what the discipline of product management is.