Today the first ever Product Leader Roundtable has taken place in Berlin. Ten product leaders including CPOs, Heads of Product, and others have met to discuss relevant topics around product leadership.
“It was a pleasure and an exciting experience the like to welcome all those professionals to our first ever Product Leader Roundtable. The level of discussions and quality individual contributions was great and we are looking forward to more in the future,” says Jörg Malang (initiator & founding partner SPLSG).
Based on this first success, SPLSG is planning to roll out this concept to other cities & countries as well. Together with SPLSG Ambassadors like the SPLSG Ambassador Berlin Luca Criscuolo, there will be a local “anchor” in every location.
All participants confirmed that they see value in this concept and are planning to attend the next iteration in about three months. In case you are interested in updates and/or in participating in the next Roundtable, please sign up with your email address below.
In a loose series of blog posts, we have introduced our services to the public. SPLSG is not only about product leaders. It is also about helping organizations. Please find a recap of the recently published articles as follows:
SPLSG can help you with selecting the right candidate for your vacant product leadership role. Our partners are experienced in leading product teams and know very well what makes a good product leader.
We have a framework for the evaluation of applicants that helps organizations come to better decisions. On top of this, SPLSG partners can run interviews in person or remotely. Especially in situations where you don’t have your very own senior product leader to support you, you might need an external expert.
Please send us an Email in case you are interested in hearing more about this service.
If done right, a product manager sits at the source of the future success of their organization. They are the experts of customer needs . Focusing on customer problems is the start of identifying opportunities for growth.
A product leader is best suited to make an impact
Trying to move the needle on business impact is at the heart of a product manager’s responsibility. As a product manager, I am working full-time on becoming THE customer expert of my organization. My goal must be to become “a personified customer advocate.” I am able to advise how to turn those insights into concrete products and services. I influence the product portfolio and have tools and processes at hand that ensure a positive business impact of any feature built.
Customer centricity means those closest to customer need to influence the direction (and not those with the manager job title)
Being close to customers is by no means the privilege of a manager nor even of the CEO. As a product leader, I must insist on having direct access to my customers. Don’t let the CEO tell you: “We have done extensive customer research. Better read that instead of wasting your time with repeating that exercise. In case of doubt, I can give you my opinion.” (And I swear you, this is what I have been told by one of my past CEOs who doesn’t want to be quoted here publicly.)
Most importantly, you must not let you be pushed into thinking about solutions to early. Or – even worse- let management dictate the features you are supposed to build. You must gain the authority to say “no” it if is justified in customer insight. Product managers are in a pole position for this. They have learned how to systematically approach the challenge of customer understanding. They know all about lean UX and therefore know how to effectively come to a solution for a given customer problem.
Being close to customer needs is a constant source for innovation
Product leaders know the problem space inside out. They also know very well the technical capabilities of their organizations. Over time they develop an acumen what is feasible with a reasonable level of investment. But they also know when a customer problem is really worth tackling. Good product leaders bring “invention” and “businessvalue” together and create “innovation.”
Excuse my French, but most of you Product Managers, Product Owners, Heads of Product, etc. out there are NOT a product leader. Just because you have the “product manager” title doesn’t mean you are a product leader in your organization. How would you know that you are not a product leader?
You spend only very little time with your peers and the CEO.
You feel more comfortable discussing details than challenging the direction of your organization.
In sessions with your peer Executives and the CEO, the only question you are being asked all time is: “When will we get feature A released?” or ” Why is the release X delayed?”
You get excited about things like “design thinking”, “agile”, “lean startup”, etc. but don’t worry too much about the business strategy of your organization.
You are focusing on technology, ways of working, feature implementation & release planning rather than questioning what is being built and released.
Don’t get me wrong, as a product leader you need to understand how product management works. You need to be deep into writing user stories, running a lean startup, ensuring customer centricity, etc. Those are all necessary, but not sufficient skills. As a product leader, you need to do more. I am afraid to say: MUCH more.
Otherwise, you are doing a disservice to your organization. At times you might even need to challenge the CEO and the shareholders. If you don’t do that you risk the future of your organization by staying in your comfort zone.
Not all organizations will appreciate your mission. Almost like an immune system under a virus attack. It will defend itself against the attacker. What if you are perceived as the “virus” by your organization? You would better be prepared. Let’s talk @SPLSG.
For the first time in Berlin, the Senior Product Management Leadership Group opens an invitation-only round table to experienced Product Leaders for learning and networking.
Similarly to a Bootcamp, the attendees will bring in advance topics. The list of topics will be prioritized upfront by the attendees and facilitated by Jörg Malang (Initiator & founding partner of Senior Product Leadership Group SPLSG).
Two topics have been identified already and will be covered in any case:
Perception of product management organizations and how to influence it
Innovation vs optimization – product management organizations juggling between unknown and safety
Only attendees in an actual product leadership position qualify and only a restricted number of applicants will be selected based on their experience and potential contribution. By applying to this round table, your name will be included into an initial list, we will reach you ASAP to communicate the acceptance or rejection.
Jörg Malang says: “This is a unique opportunity to join and shape the only product leadership initiative in Berlin. We believe this helps our community to grow and reinforce in the years to come.”
After the announcement of our local SPLSG Ambassador for Berlin (Luca Criscuolo), SPLSG is entering the German market with a special focus on Berlin.
Jörg Malang, the initiator and founding partner of SPLSG says:
“During many of my discussions with product leaders in Germany, it has become increasingly clear that it is difficult to find appropriate events for product managers who have the responsibility for a team of product owners/product managers, etc. in Germany.”
Product leaders need to demonstrate leadership and be able to influence the direction of the company – beyond the “vertical” expertise they need to have anyway.
Where do you as a product leader turn to in case you have questions or need support in your daily routine? A good starting point might also be the two meetups in Berlin and in Munich (see below). Alternatively, please feel free to drop us a line.
This is the last of a series of SPLSG interviews with product leaders. In February, Jörg Malang spoke with Chand Malu about product leaders in general, their challenges and how it was working with Jörg.
Chand and Jörg worked together at HOTEL DE where Chand was Head of Product and Jörg the CPO. Main focus was on building a next generation technical platform for HOTEL DE.