Make Your Products EPICC

Knowledge / Inspiration

Make Your Products EPICC

Product Direction
UXDX EMEA 2021
Slides

Working as part of the global strategy for Google products can have its challenges but its successes can be seen through how the products have adapted to work across very different locations, cultures, languages, etc. Leonard, Global Products Lead for Google, has spent many years delivering high impactful products globally. Through this experience, he has built a framework to help other PM continually makes their products EPICC through; Execution, Prioritization, Curiosity, Communication and Influencing Others.

In this talk, Leonard will draw on his personal experiences throughout his career to share insights on:

  • Tools to tuning your impact radar
  • The types of impact you can have
  • Top tips to implementing his framework in your own work

Hi everyone, I'm Leo. And for the last seven years, I've been working for Google building and improving various products across search, YouTube, G+, Spaces and Reply. In my years of Google, I've been part of a team shaping and successful in launching products with really skilled people.

I've had the opportunity to see how people with true impact have been delivering their craft. Today, I wanted to share how you can build impactful products in a framework I call EPICC.

This framework is built in my own experiences and observations of successful product people. Let's get started. It starts with a "why". Back in 2016, I was working with the product team, developing spaces, a consumer product aimed at solving the friction of organising activity with a group of friends. Our hypothesis was email is too slow and group messaging can be too chaotic. How might we build a better experience? As someone fairly new to product development. I sat down with our director and asked him, "What should I focus on to bring the most value to the product?" He said somewhat cryptically, "Focused on the action that's closest to gap between what the product is today and what it promises it to be." It sounded like good advice, but I didn't really understand which action to prioritise. Should I brainstorm new features? Should I dive into backlog grooming? There are so many potential actions that I was at a loss. And before I could ponder the further, we were in full launch mode and the luxury of choice went away.

Fast forward a couple of years and with several years of product experience under my underdeveloped, I reflected on what are the right actions to close the gap. My answer, it's not about the actions. It's about the right behaviors. You might wonder why I'm focusing on behaviors. As product people having good skills is a crucial thing to have. It doesn't really matter which discipline you are. If you're in UX or in product, you still have to be skilled at what you do. But I see skills as the tools you use in your trade and behavior as the knowledge of the craft, that will help you understand what to build. Imagine building a small shed, you'll need a lot of different tools to build it. Either a hammer, you need a saw other thing that I can't not know the name too, but the knowledge of what and how to build that's the behaviours. So, just like tools, your skills become worn or even obsolete over time. Yet your knowledge will enable you to consistently build a shed or as we product people often do it right, and build a better, larger, and ultimately more impactful shed. Over the years, I've worked across multiple product teams across markets and regions and collected notes on what are the top behaviors. I've seen a product people with a high degree of impact and I tried to codify that in what, I called EPPIC behaviors.

So, these are the five epic behaviors. The first one is Execution. So, that's your ability to unlock others and have a bias towards action. Regardless of your experience, ability to execute will always serve you well. Did you get a simple question that that's blocking someone? Give it a quick reply. Don't let this due in your inbox for days. I learned this the hard way while I was working on a small unannounced project. I got an email from a user about a bug late Friday, and as it didn't seem critical. I left it when I checked my mail again on Sunday, it has cascaded into a bug that it brought the whole service down. Turnout that if I've asked our engineering to look at it Friday, it wouldn't have cascade into a monster.

The second is Prioritisation. Prioritisation is your way of optimising the product's chance of success. EG, what will you not focus on to ensure that product are successful, it's related to execution and it tells you what to execute in which order. Keeping the products mission as the clear outcome. It's so easy to get lost in busy work updates, sticker updates, bugs, backlog but taking a pause to figure out what drives the most impact helps to keep you and the team focused on living that outcome. Remember, it's not proper prioritisation, if there are no trade-offs.

The third behavior is Influencing others. It's not enough to just share why something is important in a presentation. You need to empathise nd understand what's on the line for your stakeholders. I've bargain to feedback sessions with the users and ask them a lot of what's on my mind, things that I keep thinking about. Without taking the time to reflect on what are their frustrations, how are we failing them with our product? Similar with internal stakeholders, when your leadership asks to accelerate a launch, it's easy to get frustrated with how it messes with your elegant plan, stopping to reflect, respectfully asking why and explaining which trade-offs have to be made in meeting the new data timeline will serve you well.

The fourth behavior is Communication. Ensuring everyone is aligned on the vision and understanding the trade-offs and prioritisation and clearly understand what to execute towards. Communication is the grease in successful product team. It keeps friction as low as possible. Goal here is understanding everyone's personal style. Be authentically yourself and make sure to keep everyone in the loop. My current team has a motto that I love and it's basically no surprises. It keeps everyone honest on potential problems and it really helps rally around the biggest challenges.

The fifth and last behavior is Curiosity. This is the most important one. Emulating your inner three-year-old and asking why, why, why drives better productisation and product development. It comes naturally in the product discovery phase, but I would argue it can be used across all the phases of the product life cycle. Why is our pricing like this? Why can't I user tweak the UI? Why can't they export the data to a floppy disk? Some have obvious answers. Like there are no more floppy disks, but where there are no good answers. Your instincts should be to dig a bit deeper. So, those are the five epic behaviors, and I believe adhering to those or at least reflecting on those will bring the most impact to a product person. These are not strict guidelines. These are just things and behavior we should reflect on. And especially as you work with others and reflect on what, how their performances, you can tell and see if someone executing towards these behaviors. I've purposely not given them any priority or an order as every role and organisation is different. But if you ask me, I would argue that starting with execution and curiosity typically leads to them the most short-term impact.

All right. In summary, I want to just quickly highlight the five different areas and some short tips or some short ways to kind of address them. And it starts by first of all, focusing on it's all about the behaviors not the skills. You should have team members and your own performance should be measured towards what are the behaviors you're demonstrating. And you can stay EPICC by focusing on execution by unblocking with grace, prioritisation, which is enabling the great filter and being the filter for others, but also for what you want to do. Thirdly influencing others, making sure you are wielding soft powers and do people trust you? It's a good way to say it could be an external, it could be an internal as well. The fourth part is communication. I'm making sure to get your story straight and having the same story or flexing the story, but having the same story in essence, that's extremely important, tailored but keep consistent and last point is stay humble. You don't know everything in the world. I don't know everything in the world. And it's very important that you stop and ask the question, why? So, there's a lot of great techniques like empathic listening or the three why's. They're all great in keeping you and everyone else around you curious.

Thank you for taking the time to listen to me today and hope you have a great day.