SVPG Product Workshop Review

April 12, 2018

Recently, I at­tended the prod­uct man­age­ment work­shop, How to Create Products Customers Love” by Marty Cagan. As a new prod­uct man­ager, it so­lid­i­fied what had pre­vi­ously been a loosely-de­fined col­lec­tion of ideas. It was a great ex­pe­ri­ence and I’m still pro­cess­ing all of the ma­te­r­ial and in­for­ma­tion.

Although I was fa­mil­iar with Marty’s work, the one thing that made me hes­i­tant about at­tend­ing the work­shop was that I could­n’t find many re­views about it. So I thought I’d would share my ex­pe­ri­ence to help any­one else who might be con­sid­er­ing it.

The work­shop was two full days in San Fransisco. Around 75 at­ten­dees gath­ered on the 9th floor of the City Club of San Fransisco. Everyone re­ceived a copy of Marty’s book, Inspired, as well as a hard copy book­let of his pre­sen­ta­tion. The book­let had space for notes and I had no prob­lem fill­ing those up. I’ve been re­fer­ring back to those notes in the days fol­low­ing the work­shop quite of­ten.

When I ar­rived I sur­prised to find Marty him­self there to greet and wel­come every­one. I ex­pected a typ­i­cal reg­is­tra­tion table where I’d have to fill out a name badge or some­thing. There was a rel­a­tively small num­ber of peo­ple com­pared to other events and the venue was just the right size. This gave the work­shop a very per­sonal feel which I did not ex­pect but thor­oughly en­joyed. Everyone was seated at ta­bles of seven, fos­ter­ing some great dis­cus­sions dur­ing the breaks and lunches. People came from all sorts of com­pa­nies. There were mas­sive, ma­ture ones such as Epson. Some came from well-known tech com­pa­nies like Uber. A few even came from other small busi­nesses like my com­pany, Luscinia. It was great to hear about a wide range of chal­lenges that ex­ist across dif­fer­ent types of com­pa­nies.

I don’t know how he did it, but Marty stood and taught the en­tire time on his own; I was worn out just from tak­ing in and pro­cess­ing all that he had to teach. His pas­sion for help­ing prod­uct man­agers is ob­vi­ous. If he had the time he’d have no prob­lem fill­ing an en­tire week of train­ing. He’s a very con­ver­sa­tional pre­sen­ter; he en­cour­aged ques­tions through­out the work­shop and was al­ways will­ing to dive deeper into a topic that piqued some­one’s in­ter­est. The qual­ity and at­ten­tion that Marty brought to every as­pect of the work­shop re­ally stood out to me.

The ma­te­r­ial of the work­shop was split be­tween the two days. The first cov­ered foun­da­tional prin­ci­ples and strate­gies of prod­uct man­age­ment. The sec­ond day was all about prac­ti­cal tech­niques for im­ple­ment­ing those ideas. Everything in the work­shop re­volved around these three themes:

  1. Address ma­jor risks up front
  2. Define and de­sign col­lab­o­ra­tively
  3. Focus on re­sults, not out­put

On their own those weren’t new con­cepts to me. But, the ap­proaches and sup­port­ing ideas that Marty cov­ered have given me tools and fresh per­spec­tives for do­ing them well.

The in­for­ma­tion of the work­shop largely re­flected Marty’s book, Inspired, sup­ple­mented with great dis­cus­sions and ex­am­ples from Marty’s ex­pe­ri­ence. Inspired is es­sen­tially the text­book of the train­ing. This is­n’t to say that if you’ve al­ready read the book then you don’t need to go; you won’t ex­pe­ri­ence the full value of the ma­te­r­ial un­til you both read the book and at­tend the work­shop. I read Inspired be­fore at­tend­ing and it en­abled me to dive deeper and in­ter­nal­ize the ma­te­r­ial.

I could list out all that I walked away with, but then this re­view would at least dou­ble in length. The biggest ben­e­fit of this work­shop was walk­ing away with a much-im­proved struc­ture for think­ing about prod­uct man­age­ment in the­ory and prac­tice. Product man­age­ment in tech­nol­ogy is a very fuzzy dis­ci­pline; its hard to de­scribe what ex­actly it is that you do. My wife, Erin, can con­firm this any time some­one asks about my job. It can also be hard to fo­cus your time and ef­forts on the right things. Being new to prod­uct man­age­ment, this was in­valu­able to me. I be­lieve that even some­one with more ex­pe­ri­ence would have some great take­aways and fresh per­spec­tives.

If you’re a prod­uct man­ager look­ing to im­prove I have no doubt that you’ll find this work­shop valu­able, whether or not you’ve read Marty’s work be­fore (and if you haven’t you should start now). I would sin­cerely rec­om­mend it to any look­ing to up their prod­uct game. Take a look at the SVPG site and see when the next work­shop is.

Thoughts? Questions? Feel free to reach out to me at matt.bax­ter@gmail.com.