Stoicism and Product Management

Tim Ferriss has made Stoicism hip and accessible. That is a good thing. I came across Ryan Holiday via Tim’s podcast, and it rekindled a long lost interest in things Greek philosophy. I have quoted liberally from Ryan’s Daily Stoic. Thanks Ryan and Tim. Buy Ryan’s books and read them.

I reckon Epictetus would have been a brilliant product manager.

He understood prioritization.

“Don’t set your heart on so many things,” says Epictetus. Prioritize. Train your mind to ask: Do I need this thing? What will happen if I do not get it? What if it all happens all at once?

He figured out constraints and not stressing about what you can’t control.

“Some things are in our control and others not. Things in our control are opinion, pursuit, desire, aversion, and, in a word, whatever are our own actions. Things not in our control are body, property, reputation, command, and, in one word, whatever are not our own actions.”

He understood that you can’t build it in a day.

“No thing great is created suddenly, any more than a bunch of grapes or a fig. If you tell me that you desire a fig, I answer you that there must be time. Let it first blossom, then bear fruit, then ripen. “

but he also grokked minimal viable product.

Practice yourself, for heaven’s sake, in little things; and thence proceed to greater.

the power of the open mind.

What is the first business of one who practices philosophy? To get rid of self-conceit. For it is impossible for anyone to begin to learn that which he thinks he already knows.

The buck stops with you

It is the act of an ill-instructed man to blame others for his own bad condition; it is the act of one who has begun to be instructed, to lay the blame on himself; and of one whose instruction is completed, neither to blame another, nor himself.

And my favourites

And are all profited by what they hear, or only some among them? So that it seems that there is an art of hearing as well as one of speaking

 

Nature hath given men one tongue but two ears, that we may hear from others twice as much as we speak

 

 

 

 

 

 

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To the max.

Building product, once you get beyond the brain wave stage, really requires customer input. Not all customer input is made equal though. What makes a massive impact is when you find that customer that shares your goals, your vision,and brings that dose of realism and practicality to the party. Treasure those customers. They don’t come around often. I’m enormously grateful for those customers that have played that crucial role in our success to date.

Last year we announced the Klaus Tschira award. I’ve written about this a couple times. Klaus meant a great deal to me. He inspired me early in my career, and his wisdom, kindness, and humility have continued to influence me even today. He was a remarkable man in so many ways.

tschira

So it was really cool today to see Shakti Jauhar and PepsiCo to win the award. It is a pity that Shakti never met Klaus, I reckon they would have got on fabulously.

Our partnership with PepsiCo and Shakti goes back to early bet Shakti took with Lars and the team. Since then Shakti has collaborated, cajoled and coerced us to build Employee Central into a solution capable of handling the largest global processes. Without you and your team, our product would have not become what it is.

It seems appropriate to include a photo of Shakti with Murali. Murali is the lead Product manager on Employee Central, and his partnership with Shakti is the Leitfaden that runs through the heart of the product.
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To Shakti and all the team at PepsiCo, our deepest thanks and gratitude from all of us here at SAP SuccessFactors. We consider you a partner and a friend.

London here we come

Next week is SuccessConnect. I have been to a goodly number of these now. My first one was as an analyst. The event was in Amsterdam. I remember an excellent, if somewhat extended keynote from Lars.

I’m looking forward to being on stage with Dave Ragones. Over the last year or so I have learned more about the management part of product management and getting things done from Dave than I have from anyone in my career.  James Harvey, our Engineering, Operations and Service Delivery head will join us in the keynote too.

We have an awesome line up of customers, and SAP colleagues. And we will be making a special award. The demos will rock, thanks to Abhijit, Martin and Gerald, and the cast supporting them.   A special thanks also to Helen Arnold, who now leads the SAP Data Network. We are working on some funky stuff with Helen’s team that we will chat about and show. There is a buzz at SAP about Leonardo, so we will look at how that will benefit SuccessFactors customers.  But I don’t want to give it all away here.

I will also get to spend time with our new leader of product management and product marketing,  Amy Wilson. I have known Amy for years. She helped build the Workday products into a formidable competitor, and having her lead our team will only make us stronger.  I’m biased, but I don’t think there is a better product team in the HR Tech industry than the one SAP SuccessFactors has assembled. Welcome Amy.

The day one keynote will be led by our own CHRO, Stefan Ries. He is of the staunchest supporters of our product, and he can be our fiercest but fairest critic  too. Our partnership with our own HR department has helped make better product. Thanks Stefan and team.  His keynote is packed to the brim with customers.

With a bit of luck I might even get to say hello to Richard Branson, but that would be a bonus.

The rest of the week will be filled with customer meetings. I think I have at least 14 meetings. The names that were prospects last time are live customers now. I get to hear from them what’s working well and what could be better. I’ll get to bump into many other customers and partners too. I’m especially curious to catch up with extension partners like James from Enterprise Jungle. Extensions are going mainstream. sweet.

My one disappointment is that I don’t get to see the breakout customer sessions. When customers get up and present what they do with our stuff, and we get to see how the software makes their organisations better, it is the best vindication.  My special thanks to those customers like Lionel Safar from Essilor that tell their stories.

The real reason I’m going to London though, is to watch the cricket. India v South Africa at the Oval. Now that will be magnificent. Watching  De Villiers dispatch Ashwin  nonchalantly over the Vauxhall end, or  Kohli’s off stump spiral in the air from a quicker Radaba ball will make my day.  Seeing my colleague and friend Murali’s face when that happens will make my year.