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140 / Money Talks: Aligning Product Strategy + Business Goals, with Rich Mironov

Hosted by Paul Gebel and Jessica Peters




Rich Mironov

Mironov Consulting

Rich Mironov is a 40-year veteran of Silicon Valley product management, including six startups. He has parachuted into 15 software companies as a smokejumper (interim) CPO, and coaches product leaders.  Over the decades, Rich has consulted to 200+ tech companies, founded Product Camp, and been blogging about software product management since 2002.  His “Art of Product Management” was one of the first books written on the subject. 


What’s the best way to align product strategy with business goals? How can product managers communicate product value to the go-to-market side of the house? Rich Mironov, a 40-year veteran of product management and author of The Art of Product Management 2d, joins Product Momentum to address these and other vexing challenges in the world of product management.

Rich remains a good friend of ITX; he delivered a workshop and keynote at the 2023 ITX Product + Design Conference, and this episode marks his second visit to the podcast — his first visit coming 4 years ago.

Know Your Audience: Speaking the Language of Business

“Anytime I talk to business folks about something that doesn’t have currency symbols in it, I’m pretty much assuming they’re not listening,” Rich jokes. So it’s important for product managers to back up whatever you’re saying with economics. Explain why the company cares, instead of why the product team cares. “It’s a basic ‘know your audience’ thing,” Rich says.

Translating Use Cases into Financial Cases

Folks in product, engineering, and design could talk for hours about how we build stuff: the features and workflows, the algorithms and sequence, the code deployments and backlogs, Rich says. “But the go-to-market folks don’t really care what happens in the kitchen. They just want to get their meal on time and have it be hot and tasty.”

What they care about is the outcome of all that work. Will it lead to more customers, lower churn, and opening new markets? And then, of course, will it lead to more money?

Someone Has To Lead This Dance

Even in the absence of a company strategy, product teams can still build a really good product. But if it doesn’t fit the market we’re in or doesn’t meet the needs of our users, it just wanders out there.

Rich provides guidance on how to manage product strategy when there isn’t a clear company strategy from above. “The company strategy is bigger than the product strategy,” Rich observes. “But if nobody else is pushing, then I’m pushing so that everyone around the table can see the options we have. Someone has to lead this dance.”

In July 2024, Rich Mironov is offering a class for product managers wondering about how to move up the management ladder. Rich is also speaking and conducting workshop events in the Fall 2024 in Hamburg and Lisbon. Learn more.

Paul Gebel [00:00:19] Hello and welcome to Product Momentum, where we hope to entertain, educate and celebrate the amazing product people who are helping to shape our communities way ahead. My name is Paul Gebel and I’m the Director of Product Innovation at it, along with my co-host Sean Flaherty and our amazing production team and occasional guest host. We record and release a conversation with a product, thought leader, writer, speaker, or maker who has something to share with the community every two weeks.

Well, today I am excited to be joined by a new co-host to the podcast, Jessica Peters, a friend and colleague for many years now. Jess, with a blast to have you on the show today. Welcome.

Jessica Peters [00:00:53] Yeah, welcome. Thanks for having me.

Paul Gebel [00:00:54] Absolutely. So I think the conversation that we had with Rich is one that I’m really excited to share. I think his perspective is really human. It’s very empathetic but very technical at the same time. And it’s rare to find that balance. One of my favorite parts of the conversation was the idea of including a ‘money story’ alongside your user stories. So, people in the boardroom and make decisions aren’t going to listen until you have a dollar sign attached to things. And I think being able to translate a use case into a financial case is a really useful skill that we got into a little bit today. I’m excited to share that one. But what was interesting to you, what stood out that you want people to key in on in the conversation we just had?

Jessica Peters [00:01:32] Yes. One of the things that hit home for me the most is how do you manage a product strategy, your product backlog, all of our like day-to-day tasks when your company doesn’t have a strategy right? How can we succeed without getting direction from above? And I really appreciated Rich’s insights and how we could kind of navigate that situation.

Paul Gebel [00:01:50] Yeah, Rich is always a great conversation. I’m excited to share this one, so let’s get after it.

Paul Gebel [00:01:57] Well, hey folks, and welcome to the show. Today we’re really delighted to be rejoined by a returning guest, Rich Mironov. Rich is a 40-year veteran of Silicon Valley product management, including six startups. He’s parachuted into 15 software companies as a smokejumper, as an interim CPO, and he coaches product leaders. Over the decades, Rich is consulted 200-plus tech companies, founded Product Camp, began blogging about software product management in 2002, and his Art of Product Management, released for the second edition, was one of the first books on the subject when it was published in 2008, and we’re really excited to have you back, Rich. Not to mention you’ve been a guest at our conference as well, so, really happy to have you.

Rich Mironov [00:02:39] I’m thrilled to join. Thanks, Paul.

Paul Gebel [00:02:40] Yeah, absolutely. So, jumping right in some of the themes that we were chatting about before the show, just to set the stage, I’m wondering if you can open up some ideas for us around the idea of how do product leaders align product strategy with broader business cases. A lot of times we get into our own heads as product leaders, and we get precious about features and functionality and just kind of the coolness of the stuff, and it can get disconnected. And I’m wondering if you can maybe start us off with some high-level ideas around kind of get product managers connected to bigger ideas of strategy.

Rich Mironov [00:03:15] Sure. And there’s a there’s a big assumption buried in there which we might as well start with, which is that the company actually has a strategy, that’s a strategy. Right. And often when, when I have this conversation with heads of product and product folks, we actually ask it in a different format, which is the company doesn’t seem to have a strategy. How am I going to build a product strategy without that? Which is really hard, right? So let’s take the negative case first and then we’ll work back a little bit.

We can’t arbitrarily sort or rank features for our products unless we know who it’s for, why they’re going to buy it, how we’re going to make money and where it fits in the overall corporation. Right. So in the absence of a company strategy, we can have a really good product, but it often doesn’t fit whatever else is coming or it just wanders out there. Right. So there’s both a bottom up and a top down challenge here. The top-down challenge is to have a corporate strategy or a company or a division strategy that’s actually specific enough that we can figure out what products fit into it. And then the bottom up challenge is, given that, can we think really hard about, the target audience, the economics, the reasons for buying, the competition, that they’re specific to the company strategy so that the thing we build actually supports not just some happy users, but the happy users that our company wants to get and extracting the money that we need to keep our jobs.

So, you know, I think of it both ways. And sometimes we fail to have a company strategy, and sometimes we fail to have a product strategy that supports the company’s strategy. And we, you know, we need to know which end we’re working on. So, I don’t know if that’s a useful place to start.

Jessica Peters [00:04:53] Yeah. So, I guess to follow up on that, if there isn’t one defined at the top right, how do you bring it from the bottom up? Like how do you go to these folks who propose something?

Rich Mironov [00:05:00] Right? I try not to be talking about philosophy here, so you can pick up any strategy books you like. And I’ve got 6 or 12 checklist items for whether it’s a good strategy, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, right? It’s often insulting or off-putting to the execs to be told they don’t have a strategy, right? True or not, doesn’t matter. Right? And so one other approach is to say that I, as a product leader or my product team, and I are actually going to cook up a couple or three very different product strategy or very different company strategies, mutually exclusive company strategies.

And we’re actually going to wheel those out first and say, well, if the company’s strategy is to sell our current products, but in a bunch of new geographies, then here’s what that means for product. And if our company’s strategy is to go upmarket and to move from small business to enterprise, here’s what the likely things in the product plan have to be. And if our plan is to do something completely different, right, to build a whole new product set and let the old one die, and this is what we want to build, then this is what our product looks like as a way to, instead of tell, to show the executive team what we think we mean by a product strategy. Because it’s one of those words, it’s been watered down, everybody uses it. Nobody knows what it means. And so rather than saying, I’m going to cross my hands and sit in the corner and cry until you guys bring me a strategy I like, right? And you know, I won’t eat my vegetables, to have 2 or 3 potentially good strategies that we wheel out and say, well, we can’t do all three of these.

If you guys, as a board or in his executive team, tell me that this is the most important part of the strategy for the company, then then here’s where we’re going. Right. And by the way, there’s an implication there that’s really important, which is let’s say we’re going to open up Europe as our new market. One hopes that sales is going to hire some salespeople there, and marketing is going to work on all kinds of materials in the languages that people speak there, and the products are going to work in the right currencies and time formats. And if there’s any, you know, privacy and data storage issues in Europe that are different from here, right? The company strategy is bigger than the product strategy. And so, if nobody else is pushing, then I’m pushing so that everyone around the table can have the thought that says we as a company have decided that our most important thing next year is going up market to enterprise. And what does that mean for sales, and what does that mean for support, and what does that mean for finance? And what does that mean for everybody? The bits that we build in engineering aren’t the whole product. They’re a part of the story that has to align with, you know, synchronize with what everybody else is doing.

Jessica Peters [00:07:39] So just to summarize that a bit, really come in with options, kind of clearly defined and then like a game plan to support each of those.

Rich Mironov [00:07:47] Yeah. And maybe it’s not as deep as it needs to be because we don’t know which way we’re going yet. But you can’t really create a product strategy in a vacuum, and you can’t really create a company strategy without knowing that your products are going to support it. So, someone has to lead this dance, and if no one else is, then it might be the head of product who tries to do it in a way that doesn’t embarrass anybody or even make it obvious that product is leading, right. We want we want to protect those fragile egos of people who thought it was their job, but put the answers on the table.

Paul Gebel [00:08:18] Yeah, the idea that that comes to mind, is it coming back to a comment that that we kind of flew by regarding objective prioritization and whether or not that’s, that’s even possible, whether anything can be objectively better or worse in, in a vacuum. Right. Without doing this, this hard work of just come up with a strategy and features that align with it sounds easy on paper, but it’s it takes a lot of work. It’s simple, but it’s not easy. So I’m wondering, is this a philosophy without a without a name, so to speak? Is there an idea here around objective prioritization in the context of the company strategy, whether its product led or sales led or whatever adjective you want to put on it put putting these ideas together on a roadmap requires somebody to sit down and think about what’s important to the company. And then, as you say, lead that dance.

Rich Mironov [00:09:10] That’s right. What’s important to the company and important to the specific people we’re going to sell to. Right. So, the idea that I can take a backlog and do an ROI on the top 50 or 100 or 7,000 things in the backlog actually makes no sense unless you anchor it in – What’s our business model? How do we make money or are we a freemium consumer service? And the most important thing is to get folks from the free version to the to the paid version. Are we an enterprise product where the way we make money is we move folks from the bronze plan to the silver plan, to the gold plan. And if in that second case, we really have to figure out what 2 or 3 features for our specific audience are the ones that are going to cause them to raise their hands and say, I’m willing to pay 40% more to get those few features, right. I don’t believe in any generic, you know, universal user or universal product.

Paul Gebel [00:10:05] Yeah, that’s a great segue to I thought that we were chatting about, again before you hit record about this idea of, of roadmap amnesia. And I can’t explain it better than you can. Can you share? What is roadmap amnesia and how does it apply to this kind of context?

Rich Mironov [00:10:24] Sure. And let me be clear. I’m an enterprise B2B guy, right? And I see this mostly much more as an enterprise B2B problem than a B2C problem. But let’s remember that that in an enterprise software company, each of the sales teams really only has a few accounts they call on that are huge. And pretty much by definition, they don’t get paid unless they close the deal. And almost every big customer has a list of a lot of no more than, let’s say, 7000 things that they want in our product that are missing. Right. Which come up in rotation. And it’s really the sales team’s job to push push, push, push, push for the two things that that one customer that they have says they need above all others. And because they have a small universe, they’re almost always going to express that as every customer needs X, because in fact, both of their customers agreed. Right.

So, I know that when I present my roadmap or whatever it is, right. The artifacts to my sales organization, there’s really only two kinds of reactions. So, the one is from the people who see the thing on the roadmap that they know they need to close the deal. And at that point they’re fine. They’re checked out. They’re going to go read their email. Right. They got what they needed. And the other half, or maybe two thirds are the ones who don’t see on the roadmap, the thing that’s really going to be important to them to close their big deal, hit quota, you know, get to Presidents Club in Fiji, whatever it is. Right. And so, I know that every one of those folks is going to escalate up through the sales channel. The fact that they’re missing their one thing, right.

So now let’s come back to roadmap amnesia. For me, my definition is no matter how many times I review the roadmap and my team reviews the roadmap with everyone in the company, there’s this moment when somebody gets a phone call from the outside asking for a thing, right? Doesn’t matter what it is, it’s not in the roadmap. Right? So, you know, pick your huge company, JPMorgan Chase. Somebody calls up from, you know, Exxon Mobil or Daimler-Benz or something and says, I really want to buy your product, but it needs to have feature X, which, you know, it’s usually something impossible, like teleportation. Right. And roadmap amnesia means that everything that we talked about in the last week, in three weeks, in six weeks, is wiped out of their heads, because the most important thing in the world now is to get Daimler-Benz teleportation by a week from Friday, when they need it. Right. And so, and I don’t I don’t fault the folks on the go to market side because they’re not paid to remember roadmaps, right. They’re paid to find and escalate the demand for the thing that’s going to close the really big deals they’re working on. Right.

So, you know, I come into the executive staff meeting every Tuesday morning and I review the roadmap, which is the same as last week and the week before and the week before. And everybody nods their heads. But then the, you know, the CEO or the chief revenue officer gets a call from some team that needs a thing. And so Roadmap amnesia completely wipes in our brains everything we’re working on. And the sort of underlying assumption is, well, this is important. So therefore there must be an engineering team waiting, sitting around idly eating bonbons, playing Fortnite, whatever they’re doing. Right. There must be an engineering team waiting to get this request from us, and it has nothing else to do. So, all we need is the product team to take the ticket and walk it from here to there. And anybody who’s been an enterprise company experiences this every week or three. If you’re at a B2C company, often it’s not so much because there’s no one customer who is so big and important that they call it the CEO and break everything.

Paul Gebel [00:14:05] Everyone just want to take a quick break in today’s conversation to share some exciting news about his the ITX’s upcoming Product + Design Conference, taking place Thursday and Friday, June 27th and 28th right here in Rochester, New York. It’s going to be held at the Memorial Art Gallery, and it’s going to be spread over two days. Day one, featuring a half day design and product workshop series with Prerna Singh, John Haggerty, Ryan Rumsey, and Patricia Reiners. Day two is going to be a fantastic day of keynotes headed up by John Maeda, VP of design and AI at Microsoft. Denise Tillis, coauthor of the new book Product Operations. And Ryan Rumsey, CEO of Second Wave Dive and author of Business Thinking for designers. Sprinkled in throughout the day of keynotes we’ll have the option to choose your own adventure. You can sit in on some live recordings of podcasts. You can network with some fantastic product and design professionals throughout the day or catch one of our three fireside chats discussing some of the important themes and topics in our space that we’ll be touching on throughout the day. To reserve a seat for you and a friend, or maybe treat your whole team to two amazing days of learning and networking. You can head on over to That’s Looking forward to seeing you there. And let’s get back to the show.

Jessica Peters [00:15:24] So I think one thing I also want to bring up that kind of connects back to some of our previous company conversations and also connects back to the workshop we had last year at our conference is, you know, how as a product person, how do we speak the same language as these executives, right? So, we want to propose the strategy. We have all these ideas. How do we speak their language and transition it from, you know, the why of what we’re building to maybe some of the more financial language these folks speak.

Rich Mironov [00:15:50] Right yeah, a really important question and a lot of coaching on this, certainly from my end. Again, let’s frame the problem carefully before we get to the solution. I don’t know if you ever been let’s assume none of us are golfers for a moment here, right? Have you ever been at a cocktail party where some very avid, fanatical golfer blocks you in a corner and wants to talk for 45 minutes about a particular golf course or a stroke or a, you know, right, or, you know, anybody who’s into political conspiracy theories and wants to borrow you for an hour to talk about a thing that doesn’t make any sense or right.

What I observe is that when we on the product engineering and design side, sit our go to market partners down and try to explain to them at great length how agile works and code check-ins and backlogs. And like, there’s all this inner baseball of how we build stuff, and you can just see their eyes roll right up, right. Because honestly, you know, in the in the restaurant analogy, they don’t really care what happens in the kitchen. They just want to get the meal that we’re on time and have it be hot and tasty. Right. And so when we’re talking with our engineers and designers and DevOps folks and everybody on the maker side, we’re deep in the conversation about how and who and sequence and algorithm. Right. But the go to market side mostly doesn’t care about that, right? What they care about is what’s the outcome of the work. Will it lead to money, will it lead to more customers, will it lead to lower churn, will it lead to new markets being opened up and then will it lead to money. And after that will it lead to money. Right. And so, I think it’s incumbent on us to understand our audience and to talk about things at the right level of specificity that they get why it’s important. And we end every sentence or paragraph with money. As an example, you know, we spent a month we looked at all this data. We analyzed 500 people going through our sign-up process or workflow for our music streaming service. And we noticed that 10 or 11% can’t seem to get their address right, right. Or the zip code doesn’t match the city. Right. And so, we have this whole plan to re-engineer pieces of our user interface to put the zip code or postal code first, because then we can auto fill in the city. And if they got one right, they got the other right. And notice I’m still talking about process. We have to end that paragraph with, and we think that might help us reduce or increase signups by 3 or 4%, which, when I look at the top line, is something between 20 and $50 million. Okay. Suddenly everybody’s listening, and they weren’t listening until I put a number up there that they cared about. Right. So now, because we’re talking about something that might put $20 million on the top line, everybody’s enthusiastic. We’ll get a sign off for whatever tools or processes or consultants or whatever we need to do this. And they now know what to ask us about whether we’re succeeding, which is did the sign up rate go up? by how much? And everybody in the company knows that each new sign up is worth $185 a year, or whatever it is, choose your currency.

And so we can now talk in the language of money about why this is important to them and to the company. Right. We sometimes talk about the reverse dog whistle problem. And so, you know, a dog whistle is one that the dog can hear, and you can’t hear, right? A reverse dog whistle is one that you hear, and your audience can’t hear. Right? So anytime I, as a head of product, go into the executive team as a group and talk about something that doesn’t have currency symbols in it, I’m pretty much assuming they’re not listening. So, it’s not that I’m saying different things, that I have to back it up to the economics, or the reason or the outcome about why the company cares, instead of why the product team cares. Basic know your audience thing.

Paul Gebel [00:19:42] Yeah, I think there’s something here that goes back to kind of where we started, along the lines of prioritization and, and the idea of translating this into metrics that matter to the people who are listening. Yeah, we talked about sort of, you know, stack ranking, the 7,000 things that are that are on the list and, and the algorithms and the AI tools that are emerging as ways to sort things. And you made an interesting comment that I want to poke at just a little bit about these big picture ideas of sorting algorithms and prioritization, AI bots and tools that we use. They’re really helpful for sorting the top 15% from the bottom 85%. It’s really hard to say what is number one or what’s number one, two and three that that’s really where the hard work comes in. I’m wondering just circling back on that for a minute, because I think that’s really where go for where we are with were inundated with AI tools were inundated with, you know, all these algorithms how do we make sense of all this.

Rich Mironov [00:20:40] Yeah. And there’s a lot of things going on there. Right. So, and if we come back to the first part of the discussion, if we don’t have a strategy for the company.

Paul Gebel [00:20:49] Yeah.

Rich Mironov [00:20:50] Then I don’t know how we’re going to evaluate a particular thing as on strategy. Right. Unless we unless we have a portfolio model where we simply do random things that are going to make money separately and don’t relate to each other. Right, which almost no company should ever do. So, the first place I would start is let’s identify the three biggest swim lanes, or OKRs or themes or whatever they are that support the strategy that the product organization and the engineering design organization can do. Right. Then I’ll just pick the one we were talking about. Maybe one of the three most important things of the company is to reduce churn to to have more folks renew when they come up on their annual renewal. Okay. And we can figure out how much that’s worth. And we can now dive in to look at all these ideas which may or may not reduce churn. Right. And we can measure them and we can run experiments.

Without an anchor of what we’re trying to accomplish, we’re just going to get a random bunch of random things, some of which might reduce churn, some which might not. Right. So so I would start – again, let me imagine the company strategy. Let’s say three things. One is we’re going from North America to Europe. So, there’s a bunch of stuff we have to do. We need to reduce renewal churn. We need to have more folks renew. And then there’s a bunch of architecture in the back because we’re running out of scalability, and we can’t add more customers unless we can process whatever magic in the cloud at five times as fast, right?

So, if those were our three strategic goals, lined up with whatever the company is trying to do, now, we can take the ideas and we can sort them into four piles, the ones that are going to reduce churn, the ones that we need to go to Europe, the ones that are architectural pieces that we can scale up, and everything else. Right. And the everything else, we might choose a few things because they’re good hygiene, but they’re not going to mostly make the cut. Right. And then the second thing we can do is we can stack up all of the suggestions, ideas, tickets, demands, whatever they are that might reduce churn. So we’re in that first swim lane, we’re on that first OKR and do a really, really quick and dirty one hour sort of the 411 things or 89 things and pick out, let’s say we pick out 12. We pick out the 12 which we, you know, qualitatively, think are worth spending any time on because we’re only going to do four this quarter. Right. And everything below number 12 is complete waste anyway.

We shouldn’t size it. We shouldn’t waste any time. How do we get to a place where we can look at a short list and apply our best tools and best thinking, best strategy and best engineering, best sizing and all this other stuff and experiments, right? I’d say any energy we spend on anything below about position 35 in our backlog, it’s completely wasted. We never going to get there. I don’t know about you, but I’ve never seen a backlog that got shorter, right? Every organization is getting incomings faster than we’re taking them off. And so, something that position 84 in backlog, we are never going to get there unless something really changes. And if it does well know. Yeah. Right. So notice what I avoided here was spending a tremendous amount of energy on the longer list. Now maybe our AI tools will magically give us those 12 or those 20. Which case, I’m all for them. But there’s always someone in finance who wants us to do an ROI to eight digits on all 914 things in our backlog. And you know what? A complete waste of time.

Paul Gebel [00:24:21] Hear! Hear!

Jessica Peters [00:24:22] Yes. So, I think just maybe to pivot a little bit. Rich, I know you had the book out many years ago called The Art of Product Management, which I think is a collection of your writing over the years, and you have a new edition coming out, right?

Rich Mironov [00:24:34] Yes, it’s out actually. And to be clear, the first edition of that was things I had put out on my blog between 2002 and 2010. Okay, so for those of us who were blogging in 2002 and there weren’t a lot of us in the product space, it’s really a collection of work, of posts, of writing, that’s for individual product managers who are coming into it, maybe for first time, trying to get their heads around the job. It’s not strategy, it’s not frameworks, it’s not philosophy. What I did with the with the reissue was I actually stayed in the same decade. So I went back. Many of those pieces need to need to have some edits and some rewrites. All those companies had disappeared, and I swapped out some things and put out some other things. So, it’s not so much a new book as it is a refresh of the original one. If somebody’s got the original one on their shelf, you know, I think they’re set.

But, you know, there’s an awful lot of folks who’ve come into product management in the last 16 years who weren’t around when the first edition came out. So, the other thing was that cleared my decks for the next couple of books I’m working on. I just need to get that off my desk. So, a good moment to celebrate, to remind ourselves that some of us were doing product management, by the way, in the 1980s. And yet every generation of product managers thinks they’re the first one. Yeah, not so much. Right. But you know, what I think we found was that most of the fundamentals haven’t changed that much. The tools have, the language has. But you know, what we do as product managers is still one foot in the technical camp and one foot in the customer in the marketing camp. And we’ve got to be bilingual and speak tech and customer. And we have to we have to love our products the way we love our children. In fact, that’s the that’s the first piece in the book. And it’s still is.

Might as well tell the rest of the story here. Very few of us have one-year olds who can play the violin or do calculus or fly a jet, right? And when we have kids, we know that we’re going to spend a lot of time on those first 18 releases, getting them safe and grown and through school and ready to go to university, right, and do something great in the world. If I, as a product manager, put out version one of my products and think it’s perfect and move on, maybe I should be in another job, right? We as product managers have to love the faults and the shortcomings of our products, and we have to have a plan for version two and version five and version nine, because by then it’ll be really good and people will love it, right? We have to defend our products the way we defend our kids.

Jessica Peters [00:27:04] I love that story. I think that’s great. I did notice when you were talking that you kind of hinted at some new books. Yeah, yeah. Do you mind sharing some thoughts.

Rich Mironov [00:27:11] I’m working on? Oh yeah. I’ve got the outline two thirds written for a thing. I’m calling Software Economics in the Language of Money, but one of the big takeaways that one of the things I’ve seen over and over again over the last couple or three decades is that heads of product often see a real personal failing in their inability to move the rest of the executive team around to get to the right decisions. And that might be true if it were just that one person in just that one company. But I’ve seen the pattern so many times at so many companies that it’s my expectation that most heads of product, most CPOs and VP of product are going to have a struggle to move the rest of the company to where they think it needs to be, unless they’re really good at coalition building and talking the language of money and networking. All of the soft skills, which is product managers we know we need to have are 50 times as important as in the senior product and the executive product jobs, right? It’s really not about doing the product work anymore. It’s about shaping the organization so that people are aligned and doing what they should do, and cooperating and sharing good goals.

Paul Gebel [00:28:29] I think we might have buried the lede a bit. There was a comment that you made and we kind of passed by it. Loving your products like you love your kids, I think is becoming a lost art just because there’s a there’s a notion that, you know, the, the beholdenness to the shareholder and the, the quarterly focus as opposed to the giving room for things to breathe. Some of the products that I look back on in the sort of Wild West days of the internet, the products like MailChimp come to mind. There was a there was a side hustle for like seven years for the founders before they, you know, they finally found their target market and ended up selling it for billions or whatever. They ended up exiting. But a lot of the a lot of the products that take the time that’s needed to really kind of decant, to figure out who the market is, what the strategy is to line these things up. It takes time. That’s longer than the quarterly cycle that we’re used to measuring Silicon Valley success by, and I feel like that’s kind of an important aspect of the, you know, maybe going back to those early days of the internet when things were allowed to be a little bit hairy and a little bit quirky and so clinical and sterile.

Rich Mironov [00:29:34] That’s right. And I think that’s right. Now, there’s always been a rush. There’s always been a quarter to quarter. I think the there’s so much there’s so many more zeros in the value of the successful companies, particularly like the social networking companies and such, that it’s gotten harder and harder every year to resist the push for current quarter earnings, current quarter user growth, current quarter activity, whatever it is. And you know, and I see a lot of really dark patterns, particularly with the social networking companies where honestly, I don’t think I could work there. And I really worry that the profit motive has, you know, blown up democracy and made a lot of people’s lives really, really terrible and, and brought, you know, the social costs for teens and young kids who were on social networking. Right? We all know this, but somehow, it’s hard to fight back. Right. And, you know, I could go to another company, but I want to do my homework really, really carefully because probably the majority of companies are on the quarterly treadmill. And it’s hard to be a product person. It’s hard to be a designer. It’s hard to be an engineer.

Paul Gebel [00:30:45] Yeah, I think that’s that sounds like a whole other conversation.

Rich Mironov [00:30:48] Yeah, a different discussion.

Paul Gebel [00:30:50] Someday we just have time for a little bit of wrap up here. And I’m curious as we’re coming close to time, where are some places that you might recommend people go for inspiration, whether it’s in your own books or somewhere where you’re finding what you’re finding some value in? Where are you going these days for pointing product managers for getting their start in their career?

Rich Mironov [00:31:14] Sure, a few things come to mind. I’m mourning this week the death of Daniel Kahneman, who wrote Thinking Fast and Slow and invented behavioral economics and was just a shining light. He was 90. He led a great life. He did some really good work. But, you know, I think we want to think broadly here. Right? I’m pretty down on frameworks and process descriptions. You know, the thing that we do as product folks is we face a somewhat unique situation and we try to figure it out and push it around until we can fix it. Right. And I haven’t I haven’t seen a flowchart that really captures the essence of it. It captures the emotions in the same way that watching me type is different from knowing whether I’m writing a good book. Yeah, right. But there’s a lot of really good thinkers out there. I’ll just randomize a couple. John Cutler, Teresa Torres, I think is the smartest person on the planet. Christina Wodtke, Petra Willie, Bruce McCarthy. There’s a lot of really good thinkers. Jared Spool who elevated from here’s the answer. Here’s how to do it right I am right. Follow my steps – to –  Here’s how to think through. Here’s how to grow your intuition. Here’s how to run an experiment. Maybe there’s five kinds of organizations. Can you figure out which one is yours? You know, again, I think as we move up and get more experienced in the product game, the tech is important. But gosh, it’s a it’s a people business. I describe it as we need to be students of human behavior.

Paul Gebel [00:32:44] Yeah. All right.

Rich Mironov [00:32:46] So you know, we can’t leave our analytical side by the door by the curb. Right. But we have to be whole people and bring our whole person to work and really empathize with the folks who work with and empathize with the folks who are using our stuff.

Paul Gebel [00:33:02] Yeah, I think it’s a no better way to end it than a note of hopefulness and humanity like that. I always wonder where these conversations are going to go. And Rich, you never fail to disappoint.  The talk he gave at a conference to just sidebar chats that I’ve had with you over the years. I really appreciated the time that you’ve taken today. I’m grateful for what you’re able to share with our audience. So thanks for thanks for making this space to have this conversation. I think it’s been really valuable.

Rich Mironov [00:33:29] Thanks. It’s my pleasure entirely.

Paul Gebel [00:33:31] Absolutely. Cheers.

Paul Gebel [00:33:35] Well, that’s it for today. In line with our goals of transparency and listening, we really want to hear from you. Sean and I are committed to reading every piece of feedback that we get, so please leave a comment or a rating wherever you’re listening to this podcast. Not only does it help us continue to improve, but it also helps the show climb up the rankings so that we can help other listeners move, touch, and inspire the world just like you’re doing. Thanks everyone. We’ll see you next episode.



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