Three Little Words for Better Team Communication

Giff Constable Jotto, product management, startups

For the last several years, I’ve been very focused on how to get the most out of product and entrepreneurial teams. Three little words keep on coming back to me. They bite you when you forget them, and pay dividends when you pay them respect. Write it down. Doesn’t seem like much does it? Jeff Patton’s timeless cartoon explains why: …

Getting Tactical: Iteration Planning Meetings

Giff Constable product management

There are many good ways to run an agile process, but an astounding number of teams do it badly. In particular, they do meetings badly. There are really only three reasons to have a group meeting: you want to collect inputs from a group of people in a collaborative way you want to create shared understanding you want to celebrate …

Waiting for Perfection

Giff Constable product management, startups

When you spend enough time in pre-product-market-fit startups, you pick up certain rules. Some don’t stand up to new context or wisdom, but here are two related rules that have survived intact for me: 90% right is good enough Solve the problems coming up, but not the problems down the road You can usually get to 80–90% confidence (or 80–90% …

The difference between design and product management

Giff Constable design, product management

Yesterday I was asked how a designer differs from a product manager. I found the answer surprisingly hard to give. Everyone designs, but not everyone is a “designer,” which encompasses both a skill set and a mindset. I look for designers who bleed into product management and product managers who bleed into design. The venn diagram overlaps significantly in terms …

The Most Important 60 Seconds for a Product Manager

Giff Constable design, product management

As an entrepreneur pitching VCs, I learned the hard way how important the first words out of my mouth could be. You couldn’t get those first few seconds back. The start of every conversation outside your inner team is no different for a product manager (or UX designer). How you set context impacts everything you do. It sets you up …

A Product Manager Checklist

Giff Constable design, product management, startups

We’re always thinking about “minimum viable process” — i.e. what’s the least process that gets the job done. The answer to that changes as your team size scales, but I think it’s always worthwhile to fight a running battle for no more prescriptive process than you need. This impacts everything from how you treat agile, how you approach research, how you interleave …

Advice to junior product managers, part 2

Giff Constable product management

One of the most important things a product manager has to do is avoid giving surprises, in a context where surprises are coming at you all the time. What do I mean? Never let someone who cares about a particular product change be taken off guard. This applies to changing timing, changing design, changing messaging, changing pricing, changing rollout approach, …

Lessons for New Managers of Creative Teams

Giff Constable leadership, management, product management

I recently took on a new hobby: singing in our church choir. I’m a total noob at the singing part, but it is clear that a successful choir is greater than the sum of its parts. Great outcomes require great leadership, and not just about music but also about people. It got me thinking about teams and leadership. Exceptional individual …

How your team’s qualitative metrics act as the canary in the coal mine

Giff Constable management, product management

There are three qualitative metrics I find interesting to use with a product team to help spot, and deal with, changes that could be opportunities or problems. 1. Retrospectives: scoring the “sprint” My former colleagues from Edgecase used to have every product team “score” how things felt since their last retro on a 1 to 10 scale. They didn’t over-think it …