There is absolutely no difference between shepherds and product managers, they both heard value. All the product manager does is sets direction and creates a boundary, just like a shepherd. The value is in the wool which sheep holds and at times this too much of it. The problem is in figuring out which wool to shear and which to let go.
As herder of the product features and ideas If you shear the wrong wool It may go to waste, if you share too little the sheep may dehydrate and die.
The first thing to figure out is how much wool there actually is? You want to count it all.
So where do you start? Unlike conventional wisdom, understand that the sheep is smarter than you! If you don’t believe me read the book ‘The Alchemist’ by Paulo Coelho.
I had to draw this parallel because sitting at the top of the product management throne gives you an absolute worldview and dictatorial powers, which can make anybody delusional, resulting in sidelining of what the downline is thinking.
As a rule of thumb, the best place to start is with the people within your team who have the wool, the ideas and the features. All you have to do is encourage them in listing all of those out in front of everybody so that the world within your organization knows what is it that they have to offer.
The first step is an effort into a design thinking exercise, which helps you and the team identify as to what possibly can be built. The way I do this, I bring my entire team into one big room. Make sure they are cut off from all digital devices and hand them those nice little colorful post-it notes along with the humble pen and asked them to write one feature and idea at a time and then finally posting those notes on one big board. All you have to do is to make sure that everybody participates. You have to enable not just the stars of your team, but the backbenchers as well. I assure you, no easy task.
I say no easy task because it is not easy to let go of your inhibitions or the biases that your team might have built because of the daily battles which they may be fighting.
At the end of this exercise you should have all the ideas there possibly can be.
This brings us to our step number two. Making sure that we grouped together redundant ideas. Stick them on top of each other so that we have some sanity in terms of identifying those features.
As your session will progress you will see how married people are with the ideas that they have pitched. The challenge for you will be in building consensus as to what needs to be built first. If you can set the direction, I assure you that while you may encounter many hills to climb on your way to a successful product It will be the right way.
Then comes the most critical step, weighing features by value and risk.
The resulting picture will make it fairly obvious as to what is that that that absolutely needs to be built, what needs to be further refined and tested, which idea needs to be reviewed again and what needs to be let go. This is by no means the magic sauce. There is no magic sauce which says you cannot move a sticky from the scrap quadrant to the build-it quadrant. But it does make it very obvious as to which features are more valuable, which features require review and if you do decide to build a certain feature what fundamentals does it hold.