Recently, Shishir Mehrotra (Co-Founder & CEO at Coda) shared some of his insights at a TPF webinar named: Lessons for Product Leaders. In this webinar, he covered various topics.
However, I’ll talk in detail about two of the topics that he touched:
Shishir Mehrotra (CEO of Coda)
Shishir Mehrotra is the CEO and Co-Founder of Coda. Earlier, he served as the Vice President of Product and Engineering for Youtube/Video at Google Inc. He also served as the Director of Program Management at Microsoft. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science and a Bachelor of Science in Mathematics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
When Larry Page took over as the CEO of Google in 2011, he split the company into eight divisions based on business operations instead of functional. Shishir headed the Youtube division. While this decision allowed everyone to move a lot faster, there were some issues that they noticed. One of them was how to evaluate promotions with the new setup. Promotion at Google (termed as Calibration) was done by a committee instead of your direct manager.
Shishir was asked to set up the new Calibration process. After looking at the current rubric, they concluded that the current metric is designed around an increase in scope, i.e. Feature > Feature Group > Product Sub Area > Multiple Sub Area of a Product > Product > Product Line.
However, defining promotion solely based on scope resulted in several issues.
While everyone agreed that scope is a useful dimension, Shishir suggested adding another dimension to the rubric. This new rubric was already being used at Youtube for a while. It was called PSHE (Problem, Solution, How, and Execution). Here’s how it works:
Rubric to evaluate your product team
In the above diagram, you can see that the Scope dimension is on the X-axis while the PSHE dimension is on the Y-axis. To test this rubric, they marked various PMs in Google on the graph to check where they landed upon the graph. They noticed that people naturally fit along the black line.
Early on, one is growing mostly along the scope axis. Similarly, later in their career also, they are growing mainly along the scope axis. i.e., more significant divisions, larger products, and so on. It was in the middle where they grow vertically rather than horizontally. At this stage of their career, what they are doing in their job is not very different, but how they are doing it. The majority of the candidates for evaluation by the calibration committee were in this middle region.
Trough of Disillusionment
Shishir named this region: “Trough of Disillusionment.” It's because this is often the area where product leaders get stuck as there is no way to see that they are growing. However, if they evaluate it from the new lens, it’ll become more evident that they are growing but on a different dimension (i.e., PSHE).
Although this idea was designed for evaluating Product Managers, the concept can be applied to every role: Designers, Developers, Marketers, Salespeople, etc. To give you an example, if you asked your sales team who would you say is the best salesperson:
Mandatory Dilbert Comic (26th Aug 1992)
I’m sure you must have landed up in a meeting (many times?) where the lack of structure resulted in it going nowhere. Shishir counters that it doesn’t have to be. Referring to a book: Game Storming, He explained that if you define certain rules to any meeting you can switch it from being a no-outcome play to a productive and effective game, a game where people abide by certain rules and have a clear goal and outcome.
"Imagine a boy playing with a ball. He kicks the ball against a wall, and the ball bounces back to him. He stops the ball with his foot and kicks it again. By engaging in this kind of play, the boy learns to associate certain movements of his body with the movements of the ball in space. We could call this associative play.
Now imagine that the boy is waiting for a friend. The friend appears, and the two boys begin to walk down a sidewalk together, kicking the ball back and forth as they go. Now the play has gained a social dimension; one boy's actions suggest response and vice versa. You could think of this form of play as a kind of improvised conversation, where the two boys engage each other using the ball as a medium. This kind of play has no clear beginning or end; rather, it flows seamlessly from one state into another. We could call this streaming play.
Now imagine that the boys come to a small park and that they become bored simply kicking the ball back and forth. One boy says to the other, "Let's take turns trying to hit that tree. You have to kick the ball from behind this line." The boy draws a line by dragging his heel through the dirt. "We'll take turns kicking the ball. Each time you hit the tree you get a point. The first one to five wins." The other boy agrees and they begin to play. Now the play has become a game; a fundamentally different kind of play."
The authors suggest that meetings are not different than games. They have the same dynamics. You can design your meetings like a game, resulting in effective meetings.
Here are a couple of examples:
Instead of asking attendees what do they think of ideas, let people upvote/downvote on ideas. Here’s an example of how it might look using Coda (you can do it in any other way too, however).
Here are some benefits of why you should do this:
This tool can be used in many different ways, like to know what everyone is concerned about, where everybody stands, etc. Here’s an example of how it looks using Coda.
Pulse Check Game
Some of the benefits of using this game:
To read more about such games you can check out the following resources:
We looked at two unique lessons that Shishir shared in his talk. Many more exciting topics were discussed in his talk. I highly recommend you go check out the full webinar by following the link below:
It is a busy Tuesday afternoon, and you have three back-to-back meetings (2 of them could've been emails, but what can you do, right?). You return to your desk 2 hours later to find each slack channel filled with 150+ messages. What's your first reaction?
Hello hello! Howdy? Where did January go? Well, tell us if you get to know :) As we step into February, we decided to focus on an aspect of life arguably as indispensable as food or water. No, not exercise. Apps. Do you think we're exaggerating? Maybe... but technology products have become so intertwined with life.
The past years have seen a huge amount of growth for the product management function. Companies of all sizes are investing more into product development and product managers are becoming key stakeholders within their organizations.