Mock-up Tools for Product Managers

I have been using Balsamiq Mock-ups (www.balsamiq.com – will make a separate post about balsamiq) for quite some time and found it be very useful for conveying my ideas to the Dev Team. The biggest advantage of using a mock-up tools is that it allows me to quickly crystalize my thoughts and come out with alternatives. Saves tons of time as compared to putting things out in a word document or on a twiki

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Stay Focused – It is all about Focus, Honey – Part 1

Having touched upon how one can remain focused in my earlier post, let us look at how you product managers can enable organizations to stay focused.

Few days back i happen to visit my son’s (who is in his 3rd grade) school to get feedback about him and to collect his report card. When i saw in report, i was really shocked. Not that he had done anything bad…but the fact that his report card indicated that his performance was evaluated using about 36 parameters (yes, it was really thirty six parameters) which included various other things such as yoga, sports, punctuality, etc., in addition to usual subjects like Mathematics, Science etc.,

Let us just touch upon what was wrong. I assume that there must be at least about 30 students in his class, which means that the teacher will have to make about 30 x 36 judgments (which is about 1080). Is it humanly possible for the teacher to make such judgments. Even if she does, will it be possible for her to ascertain its accuracy? If her judgment is only going to be semi-accurate, then, in what way it is going to help the student or the parent to do any course correction. This is definitely not going to help the child. Suppose if she is only going to pass on her judgments only on 3 or 4 parameters, then it is very much possible that she can do justice for the student, parent as well to herself

Now let us move to the corporate world. In my experience, i can definitely state that the number of parameters that are used to judge the performance of the organization is humongous. May be 10 to 100 time more than what i had stated in my example above. There are performance parameters at each level – individual level, department level, business unit level and a t corporate level. And the most important thing is that many times the parameters are contradictory to each other. 

Given this, again the question is will monitoring all these parameters, help one in tracking the performance of the company and in turn will it enable the management to set direction/ course correction to be taken in the future. I have my own doubts.

Let me illustrate how we can stay focused by keeping the number of performance parameters even in a complex situation.

For that you will have to wait until my next post.

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Tips for Product Managers – Focus, Focus, Focus

The most certain thing about being a product manager is that, there is a good chance that one is bombarded with multiple things and is expected to respond back to all the things thrown at the product manager. And the result of this is that we invariably multi-task or rather jump from one task to another without completing the tasks fully, like moving out in the middle of writing an e-mail to taking a telephone cal or to attend a meeting or preparing a write-up for the sales team etc. There are countless illustrations available on the internet about how ‘Multi-Tasking is Evil and results in increasing the overall lead time of completing tasks (will cover about this in a subsequent post) which in turns affects the productivity of Product Managers

This post is about how can one avoid multi-tasking and stay focused on completing a single tasks. Most times we automatically revert to multi-tasking on account of distractions. In the present world, distractions come in various forms such as e-mail notifications, IM pings, some one walking up to your desk for a clarification etc., Hence, a logical step towards ‘Staying Focused’ is to avoid the distractions as much as possible.

Here is what i practice in completing my day to day tasks (mostly at office when i am working on my laptop)

Minimalist – Keep the number of applications that are opened to the minimum. Avoid opening multiple applications at the same time ie if you had allocated the time for scanning thru your e-mail, just keep your e-mail client open. If you are writing a blog post about the upcoming launch of your product do not keep your e-mail client or your instant messenger open. E-mail notification or messenger pings leads to distraction. You can get your inspirations from http://minimalmac.com and also do have a look at the ‘Definitive Guide to A Minimalist Mac Setup’ – http://mnmlist.com/the-definitive-guide-to-a-minimalist-mac-setup/ . Not sure any such post exists for Windows, but what matters is the concept and the same can be applied for Windows as well.

Focus Booster – Recently i came across this application called ‘Focus Booster’, which is a simple nifty tool. The main idea behind this tool a ‘Ticking Clock’. You set the time (say 20 min or 25 min) and application starts a count down timer. Within the time you had set, make a resolution to do just one thing. When the timer reaches ‘Zero’ it rings an alarm and allows for a 5 min break. During this break, plan for the next task and the time required and set the clock accordingly. One can also use this tool during meetings and project it on the screen so as to let everyone know about the time left.

WriteRoom – The next application that i will highly recommend is ‘WriteRoom’. Here again the concept behind the application is simple. If you want to have good stretch of focused writing then this is the right tool. This tool simply blanks out the screen and display an ‘Unix’ like interface so that none of the other applications, e-mail notifications, IM pings etc., shows up while you are writing. Hence, allows for maximum concentration while writing.

I do hope the above tools helps you in improving your FOCUS and in turn your productivity. Try out and let me your experience

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