Only three excuses from Engineering to change a Spec (requirement)

You are sitting in you cube, listening to some kick ass tunes in your headphones, and an engineer drops in. “I need you to change spec X”.

My response is to ask why, like all good product managers do.

Invariably there are three answers

  1. It is impossible to meet that spec without changing the fundamental physical laws of the universe, and here is why …
  2. It is very difficult and we don’t know how to do it.
  3. It is difficult.

Only one of those I will accept. Guess which it is…

Feeling like an underachiever

Sometimes you stumble across someone who has accomplished so much in life that it makes you ponder your own life path. This happens frequently with me, but a few days ago, I bought the latest Paul Gilbert album, Vibrato (kick ass guitar work), and on it is a song that sounded familiar. Blue Rondo a’la Turk.  This sounded vaguely like some Keith Emerson pieces so I went searching (Paul Gilbert had done a live cover of the ELP staple “Karn Evil 9”). 

Instead, as any true jazz afficionado will attest, that it is from the Dave Brubek Quartet’s seminal album “Take Five”. Fortunately, spotify has a lot of Dave Brubeck music.  But since I know nothing about Dave Brubeck, I hit wikipedia. Damn, what a long, and storied career. Here is his entry

Feeling mighty small indeed. Still grooving to the Dave Brubeck quartet.

Annual Sales Training/Meetings

Ah, I am procrastinating in the preparation of my decks for the sales meeting and/or training next week, I have come to reflect on the whole concept.

I have written in the past on “Sales Meeting Musings“, as have others, including a snark filled comment by The Cranky PM.

But this ritual is rife. Once a year (or every other year), you gather the sales people into a room, and you let them bask in the glory that is Sales, have them tell Paul Bunyon sized bullshit tales of their heroics (never once acknowledging the parachuting in of Product Management to salvage a HUGE deal), and to drink expensive booze and smoke cuban cigars.

Every time, I have to prepare a deck. I have to tailor it to the lowest common denominator, usually a greenhorn sales asociate, or a senior guy that “doesn’t know how to spell AFM let alone how it works” even though he has 10 years of experience in the company.

This is a hugely difficult task.  You have to cover the basics, and cater to the vast middle ground.

This invariably comes down to stroking egos, yielding up the best nuggets from my market and competitive analysis (that I don’t want to share, because the blabbermouths will email it to their friends at our competitors) to keep their interest.

One year, we had a product that was going gangbusters in photovoltaic research.  But our sales people couldn’t speak the language.  I put together a 4 hour bootcamp that started from the basics (semiconductor diode) through the principal technologies, and what we could do to improve efficiency and reduce costs.

And not even a week later, I was required to fly to the Philippines to talk with a customer, because our sales team was too weak to do it.

Weak sauce.

Why bother?

The risks of expert-network participation

At the referral of a friend several years ago, I joined the GLG group to offer myself as an expert.  I have a lot of knowledge of a lot of technologies, and companies.

I got my invitation, filled it out, took their ethics training (every year), set my hourly rate, and waited.

Every single query I have received was a request that seemed to imply that they wanted details of my employer’s business.

Then I read this in the NY Times, and I am happy that I have applied the smell test of ethics to the queries.

http://dealbook.nytimes.com/2012/11/25/new-breed-of-sac-capital-hire-is-at-ce…

Increasingly, these “expert networks” are being implicated in insider trading scandals. Perhaps I was not being to paranoid and reading too much into the queries.

Presentations that are SO bad.

About 6 months ago, I started a new job.  The former product manager had left about 18 months prior to my arrival, and they “limped” along.

Now, I am going through sales presentations, sales training decks and curriculae and I am aghast at what I have to work with.

The previous occumant of my role was a PhD scientist.  He had the attitude of “I’m the smartest man in the room” and he was out to prove it to the audience.

However, that led him to build very wordy powerpoints. 10 bullet points each with two rows of text.  No illustrations of complex concepts (I mean, you are talking to sales, and they crave handholding). No thread or story.  

In short, while there is some good information, the vehicle destroys the message.

Sigh, it is going to be a long holiday weekend whipping some of these into shape.