Product Management Poker

I’m not a poker player, don’t claim to be one, but I do admit that I’ve seen a few rounds played on TV. I find the strategy, tactics and pressure of a high stakes event interesting and wonder how much time is spent practicing, assessing personal skills, watching other players and creating strategies. 

If you think about it, Product Management is a high stakes event

Two recent experiences prompted the following thought: “What lessons could product management and marketing learn from playing poker?”

I recently participated in Mike Cohn’s Certified SCRUM Product Owner workshop. While all of the workshop was great, the product planning and prioritization exercises were exceptional. I realized this could be adapted to product management and used by leaders and contributors to identify and improve their contribution and value.   

The second experience was a recent meeting with a technology executive. I was invited to talk a company about their product marketing strategy. With limited information about their goals, current state, and needs, I had to quickly ascertain where they were, surface critical goals and provide advice.

I designed the following to guide the conversation and surface the real issues. This is how Product Management Poker surfaced and worked for me.  

  • I created a set of index cards (like the ones below) defining key product marketing activities. If you need some inspiration or ideas, take a look at the Pragmatic Marketing or ZigZag Marketing framework as a guide. For early stage companies, I’d recommend April Dunford’s Marketing Framework.
  • I took a deck of Planning Poker cards to the meeting to support the conversation and stage the prioritization.
  • With the index cards placed on the table in random order, I asked some leading questions such as, “Tell me about your product marketing goals?” “What challenges are you experiencing?” “In your opinion, what areas need the most improvement?”
  • I then passed out a set of planning poker cards (see below) and asked them to prioritize the areas they had identified. While these cards are for estimating, they have the same effect when assessing product management and product marketing effectiveness. (If you aren’t familiar with planning poker, here’s a link)

  • In listen only mode, I watched as they prioritized what they felt was needed. At that point we discussed some approaches and I shared some ideas for their consideration.

The result were immediate and they recognized what was important, where they need to be and a sense of how to get there. Can Product Management Poker work for your organization? Here are a few ideas.

  • Surface team challenges. Do you know if there are challenges with one person or the whole team?
  • Assess your individual skills. Do your capabilities align with organizational goals? 
  • Identify inefficiencies. Do you know what happened with the last product launch? 
  • Guide training. If you had a prioritized list of areas to address, what could you accomplish?

Hopefully, you can envision numerous ways to use Product Management Poker. I’d like your comments, feedback and ideas on how this could improve product managements value. I may be reach at jholland(at)missioncreekpartners.com or on Twitter at jim_holland.

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