A path to less stressful projects at any scale.
If you have ever thought that a project you worked on had too much drama and unnecessary conflict — that the project should have been easier for everyone involved — then this episode is for you.
We explore how to have less stressful projects by using Projectopia, our guest’s 8-step method project planning. With this method, he says you can crush your big projects; and you can do it without stress, and with clarity, direction, and efficiency.
In addition to our discussion about how to use Projectopia, you can get a free guide…
Our guest is Andy Rosic, currently the Innovation Product Manager at Home Depot, mentor to startups, and former founder of software companies.
Summary of some concepts discussed for product managers
[2:26] How did you make the transition from products into projects?
I’ve been a product manager for two decades, but products are always projects. Being a startup founder, you need to wear so many hats and everything feels stressful and like it takes too long. I began thinking a lot about how to remove stress and one of the strategies I used was to have fewer things on my mind. I started thinking about projects the same way. I started mapping out the entire project so I could delegate certain parts and forget about them.
[5:06] Where did the name Projectopia come from?
I was teaching a lot of people the method to my madness and didn’t have something to call it. I got onto the idea of growth hacking and creating growth while removing constraints. He made me realize I needed a catchy name for what I was doing. Projectopia ties into that idea of a stress-free environment that I’m trying to create.
[8:12] Can you give us an example of how Projectopia works?
I like to use building a website as an example. Your boss comes to you and says he wants you to build a new website for the organization. You begin generating a list of what you really need — a home page, blog, eCommerce, etc. Your brain begins filling in the gaps and, much like going on vacation, you pack too much because you haven’t mapped anything out.
[11:25] How can we prevent overpacking on a project?
You need to engage the team who is going to be doing this project with you. For a website, you probably have designers, developers, and people to help you with content. Think about the shortest path to a live website and figure out what you need to get there. You can start to lay out those elements and prioritize which items you need first.
[14:13] How do you turn this way of thinking into a project?
You can be the one to point out that you’ve packed too much and start thinking about what you need on day one to launch your website. You as a leader need to decide what is the target goal and what you need to get there. For example, phase one might be launching a website and phase two might be adding eCommerce or having a great content strategy. You can’t launch a website quickly if you try to do all of those things. Capture them and catalog them to work on later once the site is live.
[17:55] Who owns this process?
Anyone can be a leader in these situations. If the project manager is not doing a good job, then give it a shot yourself. This is the opportunity to show that you are thinking about the larger group and making sure that everyone is bought into what you are trying to create. Having people come to you at the end with ideas or feature requests creates more stress, which you are trying to avoid in the first place. Get everyone excited around the first goal of launching a website in a week and then come back to their other ideas. There’s a shift in excitement when people realize that you are in charge of the project and bringing them along the way.
[23:52] How do you keep people excited about the future but working on the present?
Scale should be part of the group conversation. Ask people when they think your project will hit its next plateau. If your organization is tight on funds, you build for now and gradually scale as needed. If you have money in the bank, build for scale and stability to build trust within the organization. New features can be added as that trust grows. Bringing people into this mindset will help keep them motivated throughout the project.
[28:04] How do you keep stakeholders engaged?
You will always have vocal people on a project. As a product leader, you need to have a very strong sense of the market you want to go after and why the product and its features are important. It’s about taking input from the customers and stakeholders and building a model of what the next quarter should look like. Whenever someone wants to add something to the list, you can turn it back to them and ask what feature they want to get rid of in order to add their idea. Or is there something smaller that can meet their need without disrupting the overall roadmap? It’s a product manager’s job to lay everything out and articulate the vision behind it.
“For good ideas and true innovation, you need human interaction, conflict, argument, debate.” -Margaret Heffernan, 5-time CEO
Thank you for being an Everyday Innovator and learning with me from the successes and failures of product innovators, managers, and developers. If you enjoyed the discussion, help out a fellow product manager by sharing it on your favorite social network.