NPD Tales

Ideas Thoughts and Comments on Product Development

Lean Product Manager

Many of my earlier posts have focussed on the topic of applying lean principles and thinking to product development (just click on Lean Product Development in the tag cloud on the right).  If your product development function embarks on a Lean journey, what are the possible outcomes that will impact the role of Product Manager?

Many sources of waste are associated with the large batch processing of information at various steps in the development process.  This is particularly relevant in dynamic markets where the requirements of a product can move as fast as the development process.  A common solution to this is to think of the development process as a larger number of rapid iterations with tighter customer feedback (Batch Size and Cadence).

In this situation, a Lean Product Manager needs to find a way to introduce some element of rapid feedback into his work but balance that with the more strategic elements of product management – positioning, pricing, benefits, roadmap, vertical market development and holistic stakeholder management.

In addition one of the common outcomes along the lean journey is the identification of the need for an Entrepreneur System Designer (ESD) or Chief Engineer an individual who is charged with developing a successful product by creating and communicating a vision for the overall product and inspiring a team of developers to strive to meet that vision (in contrast to a more remote management role that is focused on delivering success against a project plan).

Isn’t this a Lean Product Manager?

Again – unless you can ensure that your ESD is capable of managing the strategic elements mentioned above, you run the risk of a product that deviates from your roadmap, focuses too heavily on the requirements of a small number of important customers and/or provides new features for free that could easily have presented an opportunity to capture additional revenue.

The shift in requirements for a Product Manager operating with a Lean Product Development function is substantial but not seismic.  It is important to involve product management in your lean journey and work together to see how you can meet the challenge.