Starting from a place of inquiry, curiosity, humility.

Modern desk with laptop and two monitors
Modern desk with laptop and two monitors
Photo by Tranmautritam from Pexels

The “Everyone’s a Photographer” Problem

Trust between designers and PMs can break down early when PMs diminish the agency and authority that designers have on the team. If they…

Popular advice encourages PMs to lead like a CEO. It’s more important to be a servant leader.

Man in a blue suit walking down stairs
Man in a blue suit walking down stairs
Photo by The Lazy Artist Gallery from Pexels

The Product Manager as CEO — what is it?

What Product Managers and CEOs share in common is the need to engage with, synthesize, and make decisions by incorporating disparate and often conflicting information and needs.

That’s incredibly difficult but also a ton of fun. Depending on the scope of the product and organization, it requires flexibility and some fluidity across finance, legal, security, UX, design, architecture, marketing, and a lot more. Most importantly, it requires being empathetic.

How we built new data tools for remote learning in a month — and what it teaches us about emergent and adaptable teams.

Black father working from home with child on laptop
Black father working from home with child on laptop
Photo by Ketut Subiyanto from Pexels

Before COVID-19 hit, my team’s product cycle was much closer to a year than it was to the two-week sprint cycle that Agile espouses. Over time that changed — we put new UX, design, engineering, and product practices in place that allowed us to move more nimbly and release features on a regular basis.

Even at our ‘best,’ we were still releasing new features and testing new concepts every 2–3 months. It was a substantial improvement, but it was still slow.

For many in education, everything about COVID made life exponentially harder and groundwork to a halt. There were tech…

Photo by Jack Anstey on Unsplash

Travel the road less traveled by but be wary of its hair-pin turns

Much of the advise for product managers about creating and managing roadmaps starts with the premise that your organization has used them in the past. Some of the hardest work, however, is working toward an outcome driven roadmap in a larger organization or enterprise that already has a portfolio of products but has never gone through a roadmapping process.

If you’re a business analyst looking to see beyond a never ending stream of requirements, a product manager hoping to work toward clearer goals and priorities, or a leader looking for greater impact and ROI, this post is for you.


A 4-year transformation in digital strategy led by bottom-up and top-down efforts

Photo by Suzanne D. Williams on Unsplash

A preface

This is a long one, but I hope you stay with me for the ride. 4 years can sometimes feel like forever or just a small blip. I’ve become a father, team leader, and much more in that time. But in an organization like ours, it’s just a tiny stitch in the broader canvas of the work. This article brings together a meta-story of how our work has evolved and where we’re at now.

Testing the Tides

Get to know them. Maybe they’ll change your life too.

Photo by Kimberly Farmer on Unsplash

Google “product manager reading list” and you’ll find lists of articles and pages with truly outstanding recommendations. This blend of psychology, technology, business, and sociology is one of the reasons I find product management so attractive. The authors have inspired me and helped to shape the product manager that I am today.

But if you’re not Warren Buffet or my friend Maire who consume upwards of 60 books a year, these lists can be overwhelming. My hope here is to simplify: who has had the most impact on me as a product manager? …

Empowering teams starts with understanding the goal of the project and holding fast to values that put people first

Used with Permission from Pexels

Ever since Marty Cagan has been writing and preaching the gospel of the “empowered team,” the internet has been ablaze with commentary on what it means, how to do it, and what to look for in anti-patterns. But part of what doesn’t get talked about much is the road to actually building those teams — especially in places where they’re not the norm.

This is a story of how we found our footing first trying to build an empowered team around an exciting new project and later better understood what it would really take to get it done right.

What is an Empowered Team?

How to find your footing in the exciting world of Product Management

Photo by Austin Distel on Unsplash

Product managers occupy a strange place in our digital world. Unlike others on a product teams whose specialized skills often take years to develop in a focused and concentrated way, PMs come from all over. Maybe they were once one of these specialists who wanted a more strategic or cross-functional role. Maybe they were former business analysts, project managers, MBAs, or ops people. But for all these ‘maybes’, and no matter how we got here, there is much more in common among PMs than I think people tend to recognize.

Many others have written on what great product managers do…

How Service Design tactics can help you get even deeper to root causes and systemic fixes.

Storyboarding from the Civic Service Design Studio in NYC

On a recent project, a team I work with was developing a digital tool to address a systemic gap they were seeing in student outcomes. It wasn’t a new or unique problem — districts across the country face it and have tried to address it in different ways. But at our scale in the NYCDOE, it takes on new life.

During discovery, the team did almost everything right — a near textbook case for how user research can be done especially in the complex context of a huge government agency. They interviewed guidance counselors, assistant principals, teachers, and central staff…

Ignore the noise about Agile, Waterfall, or Lean. Listen to your people, the research, and your stakeholders to build a sustaining practice.

Photo by Startup Stock Photos from Pexels

It seems like every week someone is either doing a full out take-down of Agile or preaching something akin to “You’re doing it wrong!” I get it. Peak in management magazines like Harvard Business Review and Agile reads like the next Innovator’s Dilemma — even for non-tech companies. Yet just about everyone agrees that Agile’s principles get a lot of things right.

Where things go wrong is often in the specific implementation: in the adherence to a particular model that doesn’t fit, a lack of leadership buy-in, or something else altogether. At the end of the day does it matter…

Josh Dormont

Educator | Product Leader | Photographer

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