Behind the Roadmap with Hope Gurion
Editor’s note: This post is part of a brand new video series to understand what goes on behind the roadmap – it’s an inside look at the life of product managers. Watch the full first video with Productboard’s own Sophie Lalonde here, find the second with Hope Gurion here, and keep an eye out for upcoming installments!
The road to product management as a career isn’t always a straightforward one, and that’s why we’re taking you Behind the Roadmap for a deeper look at the life of product managers and product leaders.
We dive into their journeys into product management, their biggest challenges, greatest strengths, and so much more. It’s one part lifestyle, two parts nerding out on product.
Meet Hope Gurion
Product Leader and Team Coach at Fearless Product, Hope Gurion has been in the product game for a while — she’s a a former chief product officer and she coaches product leaders and teams. What’s the most rewarding part of the job for her?
“Really helping people get unstuck on their challenges is something that I love to do, and I’m grateful that I get to do that as part of my job.”
The biggest struggles for product leaders
As someone who works with product teams day-in and day-out, Hope sees everything they struggle with. The biggest struggles?
“For leaders who are new to leading the product function and leading empowered teams, what I mostly find they’re challenged by is the fact that the rest of the leadership team has completely different expectations about what leading empowered product teams looks like and what practices and processes should be used as they make decisions. There’s a lot of education and alignment that is put on the product leader, and that can be very challenging. For product teams, I find that they often don’t have the outcomes that they’re working towards, the definitions of success that really set them up to make good decisions.”
That brings us to the next big challenge: setting goals and building alignment. Why is that such a struggle? Most teams are used to operating on an output-oriented model of product management; success is measured in terms of delivering on time and delivering the expected scope. Those aren’t bad ways to measure success but they also aren’t the only ways to define or measure success!
How product leaders can redefine success
There is no quick-and-easy formula for it, but a good exercise is evaluating a recent example- most companies have one- of a time that it took much longer than anticipated to deliver something that the whole team agreed was the right thing to do and yet it ultimately had no impact. Evaluating what went wrong in that situation requires stepping back to ask what behavior change was expected from customers, how you build something that actually inspires that change, and how that in turn is impactful for the company.
Here’s how Hope says product leaders can use that to redefine success:
“We need to build this bridge between this is the behavior change that we want to enable with our product decisions, and this is why it matters for the company. This is how it’s going to drive incremental revenue growth, or this is how it’s going to drive more cost efficiency or cost avoidance. We want to be able to build those linkages, so the teams have a clear sense of why they’re doing the things that they’re doing, why it’s important to create those behavior changes, and then translate it into something that’s within their realm of influence.”
The importance of product discovery
“All business is a bet on future human behavior.”
That statement from Hope highlights what product managers are trying to create when making product decisions.
“We want to create that behavior change that’s going to lead to the business success that we seek. So, we need to have the customer context, what are they trying to accomplish? What are their alternatives? What are their unmet needs? What are their pain points? What are their desires? And by having the answers to these questions in the forefront of our minds for everybody on the product team, we make more customer-centric decisions, and that increases the probability of that behavior change that we seek. That’s why product discovery is such a critical skill set and practice for product teams.”
It’s easy for teams to make mistakes when it comes to product discovery, but just remember: there is no one right way to do it.
How teams can incorporate product discovery into their workflow
For teams that don’t know where to get started, Hope says “start with asking yourselves, what needs to be true for this thing that we’re shipping to succeed? When we can answer these questions and surface those assumptions that need to be true for the thing that we are shipping to be successful, now we can also identify the ones that we have the least evidence around, and discover those highly risky assumptions in order to really explore them and get the evidence to de-risk the decisions that we’re making as we’re making this product decision.”
Hope’s advice for aspiring product managers? It’s a job that’s about making hard decisions, so don’t worry about being liked. It’s powerful and important to be able to say no, even if that goes against your instincts.
“In order to be successful you want to seek truth, do math, frame your choices, and connect those choices to your desired outcomes.”
Want more? Check out Hope’s piece, Why I Can’t Be a Good Girl and Good Product Leader.
Thanks for coming with us Behind the Roadmap!