A short debate on project vs. product management.

The other day I had a very good debate with a friend on the differences between project management and product management.

It was really educational for us both. It has helped me to evolve my perspective on the value and application of project and product management.

The 5 key attributes of our debate are:

  1. Product management is focused on the project while project management is focused on the timeline. Winner: Product Management.

  2. Product management is concerned about the what and the why, while project management is worried about the when and by whom. Winner: Product Managment.

  3. Product management thinks about how the product is perceived by the customer while project management is concerned about how a project looks to management. Winner: Product Management

  4. Product management helps to refine a product though the effective use of evolution and revolution of ideas, while project management helps to set expectations and to put something in the customers hands. winner: tie.

  5. Product management tends to get sidetracked on the “what if…" while project management limits time, keeps things within budgets and restricts scope creep. winner: project management.

When the dust settled, it came down to the core fact that for a company, team or individual to be successful, it is more important to have good product management than it is to have good project management.

Overall, I’ve recommitted to the fact we need more effective product management no matter how small or large the organization is. Product management is simply more concerned about the customer than is project management.

For me that’s what the whole debate was really about; customer value.

What’s your opinion?


"Who wants to captain the boat? Anyone?"

It was the best of times. The organization was enjoying historic success. Revenue was abundant. Expenses were paltry. Employee morale was incredibly high. Shareholders were absolutely bullish about the future. What this organization desperately needed was … a strong leader to come in and take over.

Forget what you just read - it’s complete fantasy. Successful teams don’t need new leadership like failing teams. Mind you, if there was ever an opening for a new leader on a successful team, plenty of leaders would be interested in that role. After all, a smooth-sailing ship is pretty easy to captain through tranquil waters.

It’s the rough seas that call for the most skilled captains. The kind of seas that scare even the most seasoned of sailors. The kind of seas that cause you to think of when to head for the lifeboats and grab a life vest. The kind of seas that make you think of what was the last thing you said to your loved ones before you set sail. No one wants the helm in those situations … and yet, those are the situations that call for a strong person at the helm.

We have this beautiful, but inaccurate assumption that leaders are carefully bred and trained to assume the role of savior in these situations, but often the people that find themselves taking the lead are the people who, for some inexpiable reason, didn’t flee in fear when faced with overwhelming danger.

Bad times call for good leaders. Bad times call for brave people. Who is the best leader for these situations? Most often, the person who’s crazy enough to take the helm when everyone else has headed for the lifeboats.

Who’s crazy enough to lead in bad times?

The Entrepreneurial Paradox

By definition entrepreneurs undertake to build whatever they are building at considerable risk to themselves. They do what humans are not naturally evolved to do, which is break free from the pack to try something different—something that might not work and may leave them exposed and on the edge, away from the apparent safety and security of the pack.

Mostly entrepreneurs take these risks not because they have to put food on the table, but because they are driven to and because they sense opportunity. When you break away from the pack a lot of your support mechanisms fall away. There is no hiding, no camouflage, there is only truth.

The truth scares people, but it turns out that the truth is at the heart of every opportunity that is realised. Once you’ve gone deep enough to really understand the problems you are trying to solve and once you have found a way to ask and answer the right questions with honesty you are that much closer to realising the potential of the opportunity before you.

I was working with a group of clients recently and we came to some hard conclusions together about the direction their startup was headed and the story they were telling. To their enormous credit they immediately embraced the pivot, understanding that their business would be stronger for it in the long run.

The paradox of course is that it’s even harder to be honest with yourself when you are out there on the edge, exposed and vulnerable, but going to where the pack fears going is where the opportunity lies.

- a fantastic definition of a startup and the paradox of the startup mindset shared from the story of telling.


make this right Facebook. you were once just like FiftyThree



FiftyThree’s story began with Paper. What began with three guys building an app out of a New York City apartment has gone on to become one of the most celebrated applications on iOS, defining mobile creativity and winning Apple’s 2012 iPad App of the Year. Paper embodied our belief that technology should support the human need to create. It’s a beautifully simple app that lets anyone capture their ideas and share them over the web. For millions of creators around the world, Paper is where they call home for their ideas—100 million, in fact, over the last two years. Paper has come to represent endless creative potential, and we couldn’t have asked for a better beginning to our story.

Stories have twists.

So it came as a surprise when we learned on January 30th with everyone else that Facebook was announcing an app with the same name—Paper. Not only were we confused but so were our customers (twitter) and press (1,2,3,4). Was this the same Paper? Nope. Had FiftyThree been acquired? Definitely not. Then, what’s going on?

We reached out to Facebook about the confusion their app was creating, and they apologized for not contacting us sooner. But an earnest apology should come with a remedy.

Stories reveal character.

There’s a simple fix here. We think Facebook can apply the same degree of thought they put into the app into building a brand name of their own. An app about stories shouldn’t start with someone else’s story. Facebook should stop using our brand name.

On a personal level we have many ties to Facebook. Many friends, former students and colleagues are doing good work at Facebook. One of Facebook’s board members is an investor in FiftyThree. We’re a Facebook developer, and Paper supports sharing to Facebook where close to 500,000 original pages have been shared. Connections run deep.

What will Facebook’s story be? Will they be the corporate giant who bullies their developers? Or be agile, recognize a mistake, and fix it? Is it “Move fast and break things” or “Move fast and make things”?

We’re all storytellers. And we show care for each other by caring for our stories. Thanks for supporting us.

Georg Petschnigg
Co-Founder and CEO

What a great response to a bully move.




love this

via (@cdixon)

Really great quote (for the part of my personality that I let indulge in snark).

I think of Machine Learning in a similar light. Many machine learning tactics are 1970s statistics dressed up in code. There is one novel improvement in ML: what was previously manual inputs into an algorithm like linear regression are now fed back into itself in a recursive way in the ML era. But all the math that powers most of ML fits the simple expression: “Everything old is new again.”

Ha. There’s a similar formulation in there for “growth hacker” for anyone who’s ever, you know, marketed a product.



People in the US blame immigrants all the time for stealing jobs. In Georgia, they started cracking down on farmers who hired illegal immigrants to pick blueberries — and the farmers ended up losing 75% of their production. It turns out no one else felt like doing manual labor out in brutal heat…





Does money make you mean? In a talk at TEDxMarin, social psychologist Paul Piff shares his research into how people behave when they feel wealthy. (Hint: badly.)

To learn more, watch the whole talk here»

Hazards of being wealthy?

This is supported by other research, also from Berkeley: http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/10/05/rich-people-just-care-less/


(via futuramb)



(Credit: AP Photo/Vincent Michel)

In a past Stanford GSB View From the Top talk, Former U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell discussed his philosophy of leadership. Read the full article here, or check out highlights below:

1. Successful leaders know how to define their mission,…

A great refresher for the start of a new year.

“if (woman.ignored in tech.world) {
raise (“moral.issue”);


In a lot of ways the term “vision” is highly overused. When company leaders talk about the grand company vision the common response from employees is an eye-role. When sales people talk about the company vision with customers those customers nod politely and then simply tune out. The reason is simple, nobody believes in it.

Look back 30 years ago and you will find countless examples of companies crafting long winded jargon filled epistles called vision documents. These vision documents had very little relevance or truth about who they are as a group and less to do with where they are going as a company.

About a 20 years ago the vision statement became a popular alternative to the vision document. It was in most accounts just a shorter version of the vision document. Filled with meaningless buzzwords like; enterprise class, thought leader and best of breed. A quick google search will find hundreds of vision statement creators that would fill in random buzzwords into a generic template that would end up reading and sounding just like the real thing.

Now comes the post-dot-com era of the last 10 years and the elevator pitch replaces the vision statement. The point of the elevator pitch is to sell who you are as a company in 2 minutes or less. The time it takes to travel up a few floors. The brevity of the elevator pitch is really quite smart but the problem with an elevator pitch is people try to stuff their entire company history into 2 minutes or less. To much information is crammed into the pitch, leaving their audience lost and confused. The result is people fail to take them seriously.

Today it’s vogue to have a brand story. The goal is to take a vision statement that is told in an elevator pitch format and add in an “emotional twist”. However many brand stories come across as cheesy and weak. And people looses interest and fail to take them seriously.

Now here is the kicker, I actually believe that a brand story is a incredibly useful tool. A elevator pitch is the right amount of time and the right format to tell a company’s market position. A vision statement is a great way to say where a company is heading. And truthfully a vision document can be the best business plan crafted.

The eye-roles, polite nods from customers and disinterested employees are all reactions from people who don’t believe it. They don’t believe in the vision or in you, it’s because YOU don’t believe in your vision. Your lack of conviction is replaced with extraneous content, buzzwords and filler sentences.

But when you believe in your vision, truly have conviction and faith in a different and yes better future something incredible happens — people will follow, they will share your vision, and they will believe in you.

Look back further in history and you find visions told clearly and briefly that have changed the world; President Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, Dr. King’s “I have a Dream” speech, and yes even the constitution is a vision that millions have and still believe in.

The reason that these visions resinate with us is because the authors and speakers behind them believe deeply in them.

Most of us will never have a seat at the statesman table, but we do have a seat at our company or teams table. And there it’s not just okay to have a grand vision for the team but it is welcomed. It’s a true exercise of faith in the talents and skills of those who you work with.

When you believe deeply in your own vision and most importantly you believe in your people — that vision can be told briefly, clearly and confidently. And people will follow.