Disciplined Agile

Product Management Mindset

To capture the mindset for effective product management, we extend the principles, promises, and guidelines of the Disciplined Agile® (DA) mindset with philosophies.

Product Management Mindset

Figure 1. The Disciplined Agile (DA) mindset for product management (click to enlarge).

To be effective at product management, we embrace these philosophies:

  1. Be customer driven. The needs of customers, and more importantly the potential desires of customers that they are not even be aware of, should drive your Product Management decisions. The implication is that Product Managers must work closely with existing customers, and furthermore must invest time to identify and understand potential customers so as to grow the market for their product.
  2. Address the full value stream. An important part of being customer driven is to understand that it is the full customer experience with your organization, not just the “products,” that must be addressed. You need to understand the full value stream(s) that your product(s) are part of from beginning to end from the customer’s point of view — Product Management is about solutions and not just software.
  3. Experiment-driven decisions. People often don’t know what they want, will struggle to describe what they want, often won’t tell you what they want, and will change their minds anyway. The point is that you need to go beyond asking people for their requirements if you want to identify what to offer your customers. Modern thinking is to take an experimental approach via creation of minimal viable products (MVPs) to get something in front of potential customers to determine what they actually want — you do this through observing the features of your MVP that they use, how they use them, and the features that they don’t use. This strategy was popularized by Eric Ries via his Lean Startup work and is captured in DAD’s Exploratory lifecycle.
  4. Release incrementally and often. Releasing smaller increments more often enables you to reduce the feedback cycle with your customers, which in turn enables you to learn quickly and thus react to customer needs faster.
  5. Embrace change. Customer needs and desires change, often rapidly. New competitors enter the market with different or improved offerings. New technologies and platforms are introduced and then evolved. To be trite, the only constant is change. Successful product managers not only accept this but they embrace it. The implication is to adopt flexible, light-weight strategies.
  6. Plan strategically and react tactically. Products should be planned strategically in the long term yet implemented tactically in the short term. The common agile strategy is to take a what is known as a rolling wave planning approach where detailed planning occurs for what should be delivered in near team incremental releases but for future releases the planning is high-level and less detailed the further in the future something is.