When you first start building a product it’s simple to figure out what you want the product’s value proposition to be. But after working on the product for a few months, or even years you might find that the strengths of the products aren’t aligned with the value proposition. 

Maybe what you thought your customers would value isn’t what they truly value or perhaps the market changed and there’s a new value proposition hidden inside the product you’ve built. 

It’s important that once a year, quarter, or even month that you take a look at your product and understand it’s strengths. The strengths the business sees, the customers are talking about, and that you see. 

If the strengths don’t align with your value proposition it’s time to get to work. 

Last night Gillian took me out to eat at Luksus to celebrate my birthday. We had been there once before and it was incredible. This time was no different and it solidified that Luksus is my favorite restaurant that I’ve ever been to. 

Luksus is lead up by chef Daniel Burns. He previously was the head pastry chef at Noma, and headed up R&D for Momofuku restaurants. 

Every time we’ve been to Luksus we always try to sit at the chef’s table. Watching Burns and his team (two others) work their magic in a tiny kitchen is mesmerizing.

Unlike other kitchens the crew and kitchen is a lot smaller. It makes for a very intimate kitchen experience. Watching these three cook you could see the level of trust and respect they have for each other and for the food. It makes you anxious and excited for the food. 

And the food is unbelievable. It’s almost a direct translation of the crew’s attitude and work. Unpretentious, simple, intimate, and incredible.

My favorite dish last night (and it was hard to choose from) was made of sweet potato leaf, watercress, and cured yolk, in a chicken tea broth. I could have that dish every day for the rest of my life for breakfast, lunch, and dinner and die a happy man. 

Burns and his team do incredible things to the food they work with. They make each ingredient stand out on its own but also work extremely well together. The result is something that only a team with an intimate understanding, trust, and respect for what they do could accomplish. 

Watching Burns and the crew cook was a great reminder that behind every great product is a great team that trusts each other. 

I read this post by Cap earlier this week. As soon as I read it I knew I wanted it to be this week’s weekend read. You can read it here

The post is short but does a great job of diluting what you should be looking for in a job, something you can fight for. Here’s one of my favorite parts of the post. 

What I’ve come to realize in the past two years is how important it is to find a company and a product worth fighting for.

The whole post is great and well written. It’s also a conclusion that I think everyone eventually comes to.

Today I competed in the Deep Pond Sprint triathlon. It was first triathlon and a lot of fun. I’m sure I’ll do another one sometime soon. 

Before the race I wrote a post about self competition and I followed my own advice. I first and foremost enjoyed the race. I didn’t wear a watch. In fact throughout the race I didn’t have any sense of time what so ever. 

The swim was absolutely gorgeous. You could see steam coming off of the lake and the sunrise just above the lake. The view was spectacular. This was my first time doing a swim alongside so many people. I ended up staying out to the sides but on the way back got caught in a pack of people. I was surprised by how quickly the swim went. Gillian tells me that it took me around 15 minutes. 

Coming out of the swim I felt a bit light headed and tried to compensate by chowing down on a Cliff shot block and drinking some Nuun hydration mixture. Once I was on the bike I felt alright. The bike ride wasn’t anything special. Going through the old airfield was interesting but also slightly boring. Looking back I probably could have pushed a little harder on the bike. 

The run is where things got hairy. It was a trail run and like the swim also very gorgeous. But after getting to the first mile I started getting really bad cramps around my abs. They got worse and eventually brought me to walk for a few feet twice. During the run we had deer gallop alongside us and a few people get stung and attacked by a wasp nest nearby. 

As I came up on the finish line I saw my time and I was pretty damn happy with it, 1:34:09. Originally I wanted to settle for a 1:30:00 or under but going into the race I felt like I was going to probably hit closer to 1:45:00. 

Overall I’m really happy with my performance in the race but more importantly I’m really glad to have focused on enjoying the race. 

In about three hours I will be participating in my first triathlon ever. I say participating on purpose. 

Back in May I ran the Brooklyn Half and I competed, mainly against myself. I knew it would be outrageous to compete against everyone else in the half marathon. 

Competing against myself made me take the event seriously. I had a race plan and I knew what my performance needed to be at each step along the way. You could think that this is just being efficient and prepared, but the competition I was having with myself was also unhealthy.

I psyched myself out a bit. Made myself over worry, nervous, and by the end of it all I enjoyed the experience of running the half marathon less than I should.

So often I find myself worried about competing against myself that I miss the experience. Not just with races, but with work and my personal life. Competition does lead to progress but it can also lead to losing sight of what is important and have extreme negative effects. 

Today I hope to not make the same mistake. The (sprint) triathlon is out in Long Island on a nature preserve. The scenery is beautiful, and it should be a great race. My main objective is to have fun. I’ll worry about competing with myself at the next triathlon.

I just spent two hours using the products we work on. I was performing research and familiarizing myself with an area of the product. Without any agenda in mind I was able to just use the product and experience it. I felt everything for what it was, just like a customer. I can’t remember the last time I did that. 

Every time this happens I want to kick myself for not using the products we work on more often. Finding all the good, bad, and downright ugly can be very helpful. It can help set focus and prioritization but also lead the product strategy and vision for a particular area of the product. 

But I also think that the separation that comes from not using the products is healthy as well. It makes it easier to be rational about the decisions that you need to make on an every day basis for the product. You’re able to have a more objective perspective on the business rather than a narrow perspective of the business through the lens of a specific product area. 

Like with most things, there’s a healthy balance that you need to find for dogfooding. A balance that will help you get the best perspective for the product. 

I was talking with a friend last week about my role as a product manager. As I explained what I was working on that day it became obvious that everything involved another person.

I was exploring a new feature with a developer, talking about the future needs of stakeholder, and helping someone on my team with their professional development. Everything wasn’t just centered around a single person - it was centered around the relationship I have with each person. 

Working with others regardless of your role means that you manage a relationship. I find that the relationships that I invest in and work to develop are how I get my best work done, and also have the most fun. The relationships that I don’t invest in are also indicative of poor or non-existent results. 

If you work with people you’re not just a developer, designer, or product manager. You’re also a relationship manager. 

Everyone talks the new products that brought the business great success, the great redesigns, and those features that the customers have been wanting for quite some time. But you don’t hear about the pain in the ass products. 

The products that are unsupported, didn’t get enough attention, or didn’t quite get to meet the product vision they once promised. Everyone works on these products, but they’re not talked about. And why should we talk about them?

But I can promise you that every business, product, design, and technology team has unspoken products. And sometimes, you just have to work on them. You make minor changes, small improvements, try to bring the franken-product to life in hopes that it will one day reach it’s potential.

You might even be surprised. Sometimes you’ll succeed and the once unspoken product will be successful. But other times working on the unspoken products can help focus the future of the product vision. You can use it as evidence that will support it’s future or demise - and this is a good thing. 

Not every product you work on will be glamorous but even working on the unspoken products can teach you a thing or two about your product. 

Before I left work today I helped a few co-workers with creating some tickets in JIRA. Somebody had already created an issue, but they wanted to link all the tickets together into the same epic.

After five minutes of trying to figure out how to move the existing issue into the new epic I gave up. I wasn’t willing to put any more effort into figuring this out - it didn’t really mater. I re-created the issue manually as an issue in the epic and then closed the separate issue as a duplicate. 

If you couldn’t follow what you just read, I don’t blame you. Every project management software I’ve ever used has never quite lived up. I often hear some people get into very passionate discussions about how they arrange their boards, tickets, and the painstaking process it involves. Or better yet what project management software is better. 

After a while I’ve come to the conclusion that it doesn’t matter what project management software you use. They all will the miss the boat one way or another. Instead I’ve found it much better to focus on what you need to get out of the project management software. 

I use JIRA tickets as receipts. They’re a great way to confirm what needs to be or should be done. When someone is working on something that needs to be done I pass the receipt to them. I use the metadata of the receipt to find them and create filters to view them.

That’s all I need to get out of my project management software. The rest comes from collaborating with my co-workers, and following a successful product development process that works for my team. Project management software doesn’t make the product, the people do. 

Yesterday I posted a weekend read about thinking about the way we eat and use the land. I thought it would be interesting to follow up on yesterday’s weekend read with another that’s along the same topic.

This weekend read comes from Zander (an analyst at USV) and focuses on looking at the agriculture market, the current businesses, and investments in the market. You can read it here

It’s a great read on the current state of the agriculture market, the challenges faced in innovating (or disrupting) the current market, and a market map of new startups such as Good Eggs, Wholeshare, and others. 

I’m particularly interested and fascinated by the agriculture market. Not only because of the direct effect it has on our everyday lives but because of how long it’s gone unchanged.