Bridging the Knowing-Doing Gap in Product Management

Natalie Yan-Chatonsky

Product Talks
Product Talks: Product Tournament, August, 2018


Speak to any Product Manager at a Product Management meet-up and they will sound practiced and polished. Not only are they adept at getting product initiatives across the line, they can sing off the hymn-sheets of Eric Ries’ Lean Startup or Anthony W. Ulwick’s Jobs to be Done confidently.

Do Product Managers actually walk their talk?

Filling out boxes in a template does not make a Product Manager or entrepreneur. Click To Tweet

Anyone can complete a template. Templates such as the Business Model Canvas started off as a way to demystify how to build a business, but have become overly simplified of the reality that’s actually involved in organisations. While these templates have been great for providing a common business lexicon across functional roles, ushering in a mainstream movement towards leaner practices, they have, over time, been misused and abused.

Using templates such as a persona template or empathy map means that Product Managers can cut corners, making assumptions rather than gathering real evidence and data before thoroughly validating their statements about their customers’ needs.

A new breed of Product Managers has emerged in the last few years – those who talk the talk of Product Management but can’t always walk the talk.

The explosion of Product Management

With the explosion of books, podcasts and meetups centred around supporting budding Product Managers, the bar has been raised over the last few years. This is great news for Heads of Product hiring new Product people into their teams.

Most people who end up in Product Management roles are smart, capable and driven to do the best job they can. But it can be hard for hiring managers to determine who is a good Product Manager, who will deliver value to their customers in a repeatable, scalable way while also achieving sustainable business outcomes.

‘Bad’ Product people can interview well, and it’s not until they’ve settled into the job that it becomes clear that they may not have adequate experience or the right attitude that enables them to take the lead and walk the walk.

Does Agile encourage people to rush?

With the shift towards Agile Product Development practices and the wider acceptance to ‘fail fast’, Product Management KPIs, in collaboration with their developer colleagues, have driven Product Managers to focus more on building new features and products as quickly as possible. With the increased pressure to ship more products than ever before, carrying out thorough market research and customer development often gets overlooked in the rush.

Be biased towards action

The core mindset of design thinking is to be more action-focused, rather than having a big talk fest. Run smart experiments to test out your hypothesis and mockups with your customers, then analyse and share the data with your stakeholders.

Most of all, don’t be afraid to make decisions. If you’re testing, learning and building continuously, your decisions are likely to be reversible.

You’ll learn whether you’re any closer to a Product or Market Fit a hell of a lot faster than if you ‘do nothing’ and potentially ending up letting your competitors eat your lunch.

Natalie Yan-Chatonsky

Natalie Yan-Chatonsky | Author

Nat is our resident dreamer, who loves to wax lyrical on better ways of creating companies, culture and award-winning products. Nat has been working in Product since 1999, across various stages of the product lifecycle, including new product development and growing existing products and services. She worked at IBM and Yahoo! in the early days of digital, and has worked alongside numerous brands, including Cochlear, Fairfax Digital, and News Ltd. More recently she worked on the rollout of the New Payments Platform (NPP) and applies product management practices to her startup. Nat is expert at gathering customer insights and facilitating teams to generate product ideas from those customer insights. She loves helping build things that links the unmet needs of customers with design and business capability to create value, and make a positive difference in the world. When not consulting with clients, Nat loves rolling out her yoga mat or rolling on the Brazilian Jiujitsu mats.

Product Management Training