5 Minutes with Steve Johnson, Principal, Applied Frameworks

I enjoy my regular chats with Steve Johnson over Skype. Steve has many Product Management stories to share having been in Product Management since the 90s.

We got to chatting a month ago and I asked him this question which led to a lengthy conversation-if you know Steve, you know that’s a fairly common situation.

He responded, “Hasn’t a good Product Manager always been agile?”

Managing a product is more like driving a car than launching a spacecraft. You get a general destination in mind and then you make continuous adjustments throughout your journey. You estimate arrival time based on the first few miles of travel. You take a detour around construction and revise your arrival time based on traffic.

Here’s some evidence that Product Managers have always been agile.

  1. The agile Product Manager has always made it clear that their documents are living documents and subject to change.
  2. The agile product manager supplements requirements with discussions, providing context so their teams can use their own judgment.
  3. The agile Product Manager has always conducted ‘retrospectives’ on the product-especially when customers call to complain.
  4. The agile Product Manager has always conducted personal ‘retrospectives’ to grow his or her credibility. (New mantra: ‘must buy more beer.’)
  5. The agile Product Manager has always told the CEO to add his or her request to the backlog (or at least has wanted to).
  6. The agile Product Manager has always groomed the backlog to move those pesky requests from executives to the bottom of the list.
  7. The agile Product Manager has always enjoyed a good huddle. (Unfortunately, others sometimes avoid the Product Manager.)
  8. The agile Product Manager has always been in a continuous budgeting and re-budgeting process.
  9. The agile Product Manager has always spent their flagging budget within a few weeks. (Oohhh oops, no budget.)
  10. The agile Product Manager has always wanted to speak to customers despite a full slate of meetings and a never-ending influx of emails.

Whilst Steve and I had a bit of fun talking about Agile and Agile Product Management, there is a serious side to this. The underlying message is that the habits and behaviour of Product Managers have always been agile. It is only natural for every Product Manager (at least lots of them) to want the product they’ve created to launch successfully, align product features (scope) with the rhythms of the industry (dates), establish a foothold in the market, and outstrip all business expectations.

Are you an Agile Product Manager? What will you do differently in 2014?