Jon’s Top 10 Product Mistakes

product_truths
Who said anything about commandments? I’m talking about mistakes!

Mistakes. Yeah, I’ve made a few. Anyone who spends any time managing product teams has as well. It’s part and parcel of doing the job. And I’m not talking about the vaunted Failure Culture that we all aspire to create, where we embrace our failed product attempts as heroic learning opportunities. I’m talking more about the operational ones that can stall productivity, sag morale and halt a team cold in its tracks.

We’ve all been there. Here’s a few of the issues that I’ve seen over the years and a few solutions.
1. A lack of trust leads to broken features, releases and team commitment. A team that doesn’t work correctly isn’t going to function correctly. Period. 

2. When I say a lack of trust, I mean Product Managers not trusting Developers to build the product the right way and developers not trusting PMs to define the right product. And if that relationship is broken, it most likely will emanate throughout the whole company.

3. If you don’t have trust between PMs and Devs, you can forget about shipping great products. Or even good ones.

4. The concept of the Minimum Viable Product works. But teams forget to define what Viable means. It’s a great idea to create the smallest amount of features and software to test a theory. But far too often under developed ideas get shipped and you cannot discern if it was the idea or the execution. If you spend a lot more time in early stages figuring out what viable means for your users, you will alleviate this issue.
5. A good product process is an insurance policy against wasting time and resources. It does not mean you will ship a product that succeeds. That’s something else entirely. You’ll need to go a lot deeper to get to great ideation.
6. No matter how much you say it, people just want to build a product for themselves. Fighting this is the most important job a PM can do.
7. If you hear team members say ‘That’s not the way I use the product’ it means that your PM is failing on number six. 
8. If you hear ‘That’s not the way I use the product’ from your PM, you’ve got a very serious problem. If a PM has had experience running a product that she or he has no interest in it–or even openly dislikes–it can help mitigate this issue.
9. You don’t get credit for ideas. Only products and features that you shipped. You don’t get glory for stuff that you shipped. Only products that perform. Product isn’t a thinking and doing job. It’s a performing job.
10. If the team isn’t performing, consider changing your PM. While not always fair, it’s the PM’s job to get that performance out of team. Think of a PM like a manager of a professional baseball team. When a club struggles it replaces the manager because you can’t replace the other 25 members of the team. Same thing with the PM. It might not even be the case that a PM is doing a bad job. It could be you just need another voice that resonates with your team.

Evolution Trumps Revolution: Why the Macbook Air Unveiling Is the Real Star for Apple

Forget the watch.

This week Apple announced the ship date and details around its first foray onto the wrist, the long-awaited Apple Watch. Of course the press fawned over the details and the design of the device, as the richest company in the world takes on luxury brands like Rolex.

But the watch wasn’t even the most important announcement today. Not when you take into consideration how Apple is approaching the diversity of screen sizes.

We might look back at the announcement of the 12-inch MacBook (note Apple is no longer using the Air name) as the beginning of the end of iPad Era for the company. Over the past few years, the iPad sales have slumped for a variety of reasons, mostly because the pincer maneuver of phones are getting bigger and more useful and computers getting lighter and more efficient with better screen resolutions. The need for a tablet has waned as each of these technology trends eroded the popularity of tablets.

The new Macbook combines a size of an iPad (though slightly larger) with the functionality that once was only available in the MacBook Air or Pro lines. With a Retina display, Apple hopes the 12-inch MacBook will lead lots of iPad consumers to consider it instead. Earlier this year, CEO Tim Cook stated he believes Macs are cannibalizing iPad sales.

Mac Daddy
Apple sold 5.5 million Macs in their record-breaking quarter that ended in December. Granted, that is a drop in the bucket compared to the company selling 74.4 million iPhones or even the 21 million iPads in the same period, but it still shows the strength Apple has in computers. Although Apple doesn’t break out specific sales per model, the company trumpeted the new iMac with a 5K Retina display as the main driver of the sales.

For several years now Apple has been busy slimming down the laptop by removing features that we thought consumers couldn’t live without. With each version, Apple continued to nip a drive here, tuck an under-utilized port there. The end result: a lightweight, killer machine with terrific battery life that leads the industry. The current MacBook Air 13-inch weighs less than three pounds and boasts a performance very close to the MacBook Pro version.

Simplest Mac Ever
For the new MacBook, Apple is even stripping away more, leaving only a headphone jack and one multi-functioning port. The machine takes advantage of the new Intel mobile device microchip, allowing for more battery life and lighter weight. The machine comes in at two pounds that can last all day.

What Apple kept, though, and even greatly improved, was the keyboard. Fact is that despite all the tablet hoopla, consumers like a keyboard. Even Microsoft understood this and added the colorful detachable keyboard to the Surface line.

Some have commented that the machine doesn’t really seem like a real computer. But what a real computer is has changed. Sure the new Macbook isn’t going to perform when crunching massive Excel files or editing video. And yeah, the company is selling a $79 dongle that many hardcore business users will need to project a presentation on a screen.

But devices have been trending toward wireless transmission for years now. I don’t suppose that we’re going back to a wired world anytime soon. The need for a bunch of ports is fading fast.

Apple has clearly seen the future of computing and is creating a device that will just go ahead and compete directly with iPad. It is something that other companies would avoid at all costs. But Apple has seen the writing on the wall and is adopting its strategy to take advantage of the trend.

The Watchman
Yes, the Apple Watch does suggest a shift for the company. It is reminiscent of its big audacious bets with the iPod and iPhone. By creating a huge market that didn’t exist previously, the company believes it can dominate like no other. The iPad was meant to be another example of making a market.

Only time will tell if Apple is able to make a mass market out of wearables. But by re-envisioning what computing looks like in the future and aggressively changing its product, it could be that the new MacBook ends up being the biggest winner from this week’s announcements.