Sketching a Path Forward

sketch-forwardDon’t debate the debaters, but instead, influence the influencers.

Product managers are leaders and influencers of features, ideas, and epic tasks. Some have direct and backed authority, many others have variants that are partial or merely implicit. Either way, to achieve the greatest success, do you rule with force? Or influence, and guide, and allow for shared discovery in support of your product’s end goals?

Functional Forms

When your designer says “no”… how do you get them to “yes”? Let’s look at this challenge with respect to a few designer types that many of us have had the pleasure and privilege of working with.

The Perfectionist
The Innovator

This week, let’s take a look at…

The Mixologist
The Standard Bearer

The Mixologist

The Mixologist may lack vision or a good stream of resources. No problem.

Influence the sources. If the sources are blogs, suggest other blogs more inline with your desired approaches. If the sources are people, work with them, share your vision, share your perspectives, recommendations, creativity, logic and reasoning. Build relationships and foster broad support from below. Tread lightly here; you do not want to offend The Mixologist by overstepping or allowing any of your relationship building to be construed as anything threatening.

When The Mixologist is aligned with your goals and proposing ideas you have pitched and sought, get your ego out of the way… #1 is always to achieve the business objective. And, if you have built sound relationships, the right people will know where the credit truly belongs. Oh yeah… and frequent lunches with The Mixologist help too.

The Standard Bearer

“Standards are great, because there are so many to choose from.”

There are a ton of standards out there. For every standard, there is another competing one. Identify the competition, share it around the organization. Build support for the new standard, or at least for a willingness to experiment with it. Let those new supporters become the advocates of the new thinking. Foster an environment where multiple ideas, multiple standards can co-exist and compete on objective measures. Encourage and reward the experimentation with competing standards as well as non-standard concepts. Standards are great; they can always be improved.

Designers are people, too.

Yep. And, they too, do not often fit a simple character description. Most designers are a mix of traits, some potentially described here.

Generally speaking, the best influencer, the one to really buddy up to, is statistics– they can often be your best influencer and supporter in most cases. Collect the data, find the data, and introduce the data (“your key influencer”) to your designer and together understand it, explore it, and challenge yourselves to build upon it.

Over the next few weeks, we will be discussing various examples and approaches in wielding strategic influence as a successful product manager.

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Jeremy Horn
The Product Guy

This entry was posted in startup, user experience and tagged , , , , by Jeremy Horn. Bookmark the permalink.

About Jeremy Horn

Jeremy Horn is an award-winning, product management veteran with 2 decades of experience leading and managing product teams. Jeremy has held various executive and advisory roles, from founder of several start-ups to driving diverse organizations in online services, consumer products, and wearables. As founder of The Product Group, he has created the largest product management meetup in the world and hosts the annual awarding of The Best Product Person. Accelerating the next evolution of product management, Jeremy acted as creator and instructor of the 10-week product management course at General Assembly and The New School, and mentoring at Women 2.0 and Lean Startup Machine (where is he also a judge). To see where Jeremy is now check him out at (1) and (2)

2 thoughts on “Sketching a Path Forward

  1. Hey Jeremy,
    Love this post. I hope to be an influencer someday. Right now I’m just trying to not be a know-it-all.
    ps Standard Barer should be Standard Bearer. feel free to delete this line from my comment.


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