As I was thinking about key books that help develop more confidence as a Product Manager, one surprisingly non “Product” book made the cut; completely changing how I think about agile scrum daily stand-up.
**I hope you get as much of a benefit as I did from these books. As a heads up, if you do end up buying one of them from a link on this page, I may collect a small share of sales.
I’ve been surprised that this book has never been recommended to me by a product person but has been highly endorsed by the Real Estate field.
Gary Keller, the founder of Keller Williams Realty has been a guest on the BiggerPockets podcast and multiple professionals have recommended The One Thing for its simplicity and ability to drastically change their mindset around focus on achieving a specific goal.
But Ben, why are you recommending a real estate book in an article about product management?
The One Thing isn’t a real estate book, it is a book on FOCUS.
A lack of focus is one of the biggest challenges for product teams and organizations across the globe. Teams often have a clear end goal or vision in mind, but struggle in their day to day abilities to stay on task and continuously march towards that objective. That’s where the core concept of The One Thing comes into play.
A very high level summary that doesn’t do the book justice is that you need to have clarity around what your end goal is. To do this, you break that goal down into components that should constantly re-frame your current mindset and actions through a series of prompts. You ask the same question repeatedly with a different time frame each time that will drive extreme focus.
Here are the steps The One Thing lays out:
Step 1: Know where you’re headed
As a Product person, hopefully you have clarity around where you need to get to which will let this activity drive you there. Once your end goal is defined and clear, you ask yourself the key question of
“What’s the ONE Thing I can do such that by doing it everything else will be easier or unnecessary?”
This question can be augmented to get more time sensitive and as a result, eventually drive extreme focus and clarity for your scrum team.
The first time you ask this question it should be broad. Let’s say your end goal has a rough timeline of 5 years from now, you can ask yourself “What is the ONE Thing our team MUST do in the next year such that by doing it everything else will be easier or unnecessary and we will reach our 5 year vision for this product?” That establishes your top goal for the year.
Step 2: Hone your time horizon
Your team will of course have other goals, distractions, and asks from outside teams that come up, but this activity will drive significant clarity.
Once you’ve got more of a year vision built around that goal that of course leads to your 5 year product vision, you repeat the question. If in 1 year, we need to have xyz done, what is the ONE Thing our team needs to do in the first half of this year such that by doing it everything else will be easier or unnecessary and we will reach our first year product vision?
Guess what comes next? YOU GOT IT YOU SMART READER YOU
Step 3: Break it down further!
What is the one thing we need to do this quarter to reach that half year vision? After that, what is the one thing we need to do this month? And finally, what is The ONE Thing we have to do this SPRINT to reach our goal for the month?
Ben, I have to be honest this is feeling pretty project management-ey.
Whoa whoa whoa reader you watch your tone. No one said anything about making a gantt chart here (not that there’s anything wrong with that).
But we as Product Managers need to be able to effectively set the long term strategy for our products and AT THE SAME TIME, instill confidence with the organization, senior leadership and most importantly our engineering teams. This puts us in the right direction and reorients our current day to day work fits with the bigger picture.
You can do this exercise on your own or with your team, either way it does an incredible job of laying out easy to follow thinking around complex visions, strategies, testing, and launch plans.
I’ve applied this most recently in influencing my scum team at Trunk Club to have more defined sprint goals that give engineers significantly more clarity, and me as a product manager a lot more accuracy on when we could expect to get our in flight increments in front of customers.
Following these principles, here are some example changes you should expect to see to your sprint goals:
I’ve seen this result in a few changes for engineering teams:
It gave teams a goal that is energizing because of its concreteness
It better predicted when we were going to get a feature in front of customers and helped them set expectations
It gave clarity for the engineers around what was the highest priority increment to work on given there are always a ton of conflicting asks
This concept doesn’t just apply to agile scrum engineering stand-ups but can apply to every aspect of your life both professionally and personally.
What can you apply The ONE Thing to in your life?
A note on COVID:
These are challenging times. I personally was selected for furlough at Trunk Club because of the pandemic, but am fortunate enough to have been asked to return to work. If you are still lucky enough to be employed, don’t let working from home stop you from being a confident Product Manager! It’s these times that we need even more confidence, collaboration, and focus at stand-up and across meetings.
About the author:
Ben Staples has over 7 years of product management and product marketing eCommerce experience. He is currently employed at Trunk Club as a Senior Product Manager responsible for driving engagement through the Trunk Club Native App. Previously, Ben was a Product Manager at Vistaprint and founded the Vistaprint Product Management guild with over 40 members.
I do product management consulting! Interested in finding out more? Want to get notified when my next product article comes out? Interested in getting into Product Management but don’t know how? Want even more book recommendations?! Email me! Or follow me on Medium!