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LTP 2023 | APAC: How To Solve Gnarly Product Problems

By Leading The Product

LTP 2023 | APAC was held on Thursday, May 18th, with over a thousand product professionals taking part in-person and online.

Our main-stage speakers came together from across the globe to teach how 
to solve gnarly product problems that all product professionals will face at some point in
their careers.

Here we’ve put together a short recap of some of the lessons each of these seven speakers had to share with us on the day:

  • Kirsten Mann on“How do I prove the value of product management to executives?”
  • Michael Fountain on “How do I align my efforts when I rely on other teams focused on different business priorities?”
  • Joel Brydon on “How do I gain trust and consensus across the organisation?”
  • Antonia Landi on “How should I ‘do product’ when every organisation does it differently?”
  • Amir Ansari on “How do I balance my time to learn about our customers while also doing the delivery work?”
  • Robin Zaragoza on “How do I know when I am the problem slowing down the delivery process?”
  • Rachel Morley on “How do I make empowered product teams work in the real world?”

Kirsten Mann on “How do I prove the value of product management to executives?”

Starting #LTPCON off with some hard truths, Kirsten said that Product Managers
need to “harden the f— up”, and that Executives don’t care about our product management practices and process; they are commercially-driven and just want the job done.

To successfully gain the trust of these Executives, we need to apply good commercial acumen: connect all the dots quickly, understand the business implications that result, and know exactly how to take action.

“Being a commercially savvy, profit-focused, shrewd Product Manager will put you in the
driver’s seat.

Your ability to display these characteristics and communicate them succinctly and simply will build trust, and give you the scope to be a good practitioner of product management.”

“Ultimately, the strength of having good product management craft is that it can help you deliver the real outcome executives want – solid commercial returns.”

Kirsten went through a number of techniques we can use to develop our business acumen muscles, how to make calculated bets, and how to show your Executives that you have some skin in the game.

 

Kirsten Mann is Chief Product Officer at Prospection.

“You need to understand your business as well as you understand your customers.”
- Kirsten Mann

Michael Fountain on “How do I align my efforts when I rely on other teams focused on different business priorities?”

Michael began his talk with a simple appeal: “Please stop calling the people you work with STAKEHOLDERS! These are your PARTNERS.”

This starting point set the tone for the lessons Michael was to teach us, in that if we want to align our efforts with others we first must seek to understand the people involved to understand the challenge faced.

“People make decisions based on emotions. Sometimes rational. Often not so much.”

Michael took us through the combination of soft skills we need to understand and implement when we rely on the alignment of our partners to deliver customer value and drive business impact.

He then took us through the three playbooks he has created that incorporate these soft skills into actionable steps that anyone can apply to their unique alignment challenges: Seek to Understand, Seek to Frame, and Seek to Align.

“Product management is not measured by MY SUCCESS or YOUR SUCCESS. It is about OUR SUCCESS.”

 

Michael Fountain is Senior Manager of Product Management at DocuSign.

“Reframe to invite collaboration, then commit with intent.“
- Michael Fountain

Joel Brydon on “How do I gain trust and consensus across the organisation?”

Joel started his talk at #LTPCON by pointing out the key word in this Gnarly Problem – TRUST.

Providing some great insights into the world of ABC Digital Product, Joel identified three circles of trust: trust at home (building trust with our direct colleagues), trust far and wide (the wider partners in our organisations), and trust earned (what we should be thinking about next).

Joel also unpacked his ‘Trust Formula’ with us, which moves through empathy and being inclusive, to building relationships and backing up what you say with actions.

An African proverb Joel shared really resonated with the audience: “If you want to go fast, go alone. But if you want to go far, go together.”

Joel’s ‘Trust Cheat Sheet’ was incredibly helpful in simplifying the concepts and steps he outlined.

 

Joel Brydon is Head of Digital Product at the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

“It starts and ends with trust. Without trust, the whole thing falls over.”
- Joel Brydon

Antonia Landi on “How should I ‘do product’ when every organisation does it differently?”

Antonia starting by asking what’s wrong with Product Management?

Is it us? Well, it’s certainly up to us to address it.

Antonia went through three core assumptions in Product Management that are hindering us:

  • Assuming we should take frameworks at face value
  • Assuming that product literature reflects reality
  • Assuming a product-led approach is always the best one

“The truth is that no single framework is ever gonna be immediately and wholly applicable to your specific organisation”, said Antonia.

She took us how through how we need to start thinking like a PM about our approach to the different frameworks and models.

“Just as we do our organisations a disservice by implementing frameworks wholesale, we do ourselves a disservice by assuming that the standards set in product management books are the norm – or even possible at all.”

We can make these theories work for us and our circumstances by first defining the problem, then creating a solution hypothesis and starting small.

Antonia then gave us some great advice on demystifying the Product Management profession to ensure our organisations get the idea of what we’re doing.

“Your company will never truly become product-led if a Product Management approach is only understood by a niche group of employees. If someone in sales doesn’t understand why we won’t deliver roadmaps with deadlines, that’s on us.”

 

Antonia Landi is a Product Ops Consultant.

“When we try to set up frameworks wholesale, we set ourselves up to fail.”
- Antonia Landi

Amir Ansari on “How do I balance my time to learn about our customers while also doing the delivery work?”

Amir started by acknowledging that most Product Managers were overworked and time-poor, and many of us don’t have specialist resources on-tap to do our UX research for us.

With that in mind – and not being able to magic-up more time in the day for us – Amir taught us that efficiently planning our research was a way to solve this gnarly problem.

Sharing his experiences on the building blocks that product teams require to plan their research, Amir stressed that the research process should involve our whole team – both in sharing insights and aligning efforts, but also in planning user research.

Amir then took us through the 8 steps of the ‘User Research Canvas’ that they’ve developed at Iress – an incredibly helpful framework for saving time in planning research, and making it easier to produce a clear and concise summary of our research plans so that we can easily share them across our teams.

A great quote Amir shared was from American writer and biochemistry professor Isaac Asimov: “Your assumptions are your windows on the world. Scrub them off every once in a while, or the light won’t come in.”

Coming away from this session and the insightful Q&A, we’d learned that the key to solving this gnarly problem lay in using a repeatable process to focus on the most important thing we want to learn right now, and then quickly planning how to get the required answers.

 

Amir Ansari is Global Head of Product Design at Iress.

“Most product teams don’t know the building blocks required to plan research.”
- Amir Ansari

Robin Zaragoza on “How do I know when I am the problem slowing down the delivery process?”

Robin started off her talk at #LTPCON by getting us to think about why speed represents value to our businesses.

“The sooner we can deliver a feature, the quicker the customer can receive 
the benefit of that feature, and the sooner the organisation can realise the value
of that customer.”

The day-to-day responsibilities of Product Managers centre around decisions – covering strategy, discovery and delivery. Robin reasoned that the best way for us to deliver value faster is to make decisions faster.

Utilising a range of tools like the Eisenhower Matrix, Robin gave us tips and techniques for evaluating the decisions that need to be made, how we can break them up if they’re too big, and how long they should be taking.

The nine tips Robin shared will improve our decision-making ability and speed up our delivery times – provided we commit to putting them into action.

 

Robin Zaragoza is Founder and CEO at The Product Refinery.

“Speed does matter. Speed is a proxy for value.”
- Robin Zaragoza

Rachel Morley on “How do I make empowered product teams work in the real world?”

Rachel illustrated how empowerment for its own sake – treated as the ‘sensible default’ can be dangerous, as our leaders will often need to be ‘in the work’. After all, our “leaders are the most experienced people we have”, and we need to be leveraging the people with the knowledge and context to maximise value in our product.

Rachel argued that instead we should be reframing the problem from being ‘autonomy vs control’ to ‘autonomy vs learning’, and we should aim for an intentional collaboration – where empowerment exists but with flexible guardrails that relate to the individuals and the situation.

“Autonomy is not one-size-fits-all. It requires tailored support for different challenges.”

Rachel then left us with some practical and actionable tips to help motivate our leaders and establish the guardrails of our collaboration.

“Successful Product Managers need to be able to invite expertise in – to learn, grow and have fun – in order to do their best work.”


Rachel Morley is Chief Product Officer at Culture Amp.

“Unified tactics are often how we win.”
- Rachel Morley

Want to watch the full talks? Get on-demand video replays of each speaker and the full conference with an LTP SEASON PASS.