On flexibility in achieving your vision…

I’ve been using a quote in roadmap presentations as a nod to the inevitability of change:

“No plan of operations extends with any certainty beyond the first contact with the main hostile force.”

– Helmuth von Moltke the Elder

Reading the Wikipedia page for Helmuth, I now learn he was the creator of a new method of directing armies in the field. Rather than directing all movements in detail, he relied on setting objectives and allowing subordinates freedom to execute within the general framework of the mission. This seems very close to the metrics driven, management by objectives that we see many modern product teams using. Dare I mention OKRs?

Here’s another nice quote, via Marty Cagan’s chapter on Product Objectives in his excellent book “Inspired“:

“Never tell people how to do things. Tell them what to do, and they will surprise you with their ingenuity.”

– General George Patton

On researching the competition…

A research minded Product Manager, if a competitor just launched a new product, they go out and talk to users right away: “what does this mean for you?”, “how does this fit into your life?” They’re looking for those opportunities to discover new things rather than sitting and saying “we need to get to feature parity with them right now”.

Because customers don’t really care about feature parity, everything is part of an experience, part of a journey, and Product Managers who excel at research are always proactively seeking out that new information, those new challenges and looking for ways to activate that before someone tells them to.

– Matt LeMay on The CORE connective skills of product management (podcast)

I like this framing of competition research as digging into the problems a competitor is trying to solve, rather than copying their implementation. The deeper thinking suggested here seems likely to turn up ways that your company can improve on the solution, make it your own, or perhaps even determine that this opportunity is not necessary or not a priority for your customers.

Economies of abundance

This really struck a chord with me:

“Making money from open source is a hack though, as our currencies are based in scarcity and our peer economies are based in abundance. In the latter, the more people participating means the more everyone benefits.”
Daniel Bachhuber – an economy of abundance