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From the Trenches: Discovery

The "From the Trenches" series shares experience from Greg Prickril's coaching sessions. The names and other facts have been changed to protect the innocent.


I recently had a great session with a senior-ish PM who would like his organization improve their conversion rate (turn more prospects into customers). His management isn't convinced that this is the right priority (the reasons for this position aren't that relevant).


After a meeting with his manager on the activities he was considering, my Coachee felt like there wasn't much alignment on the topic. What to do?


I suggested a few things:

  • This is actually a great opportunity to apply a product discovery approach

  • He put something in writing to drive alignment

  • He take a skeptical approach and try to eliminate the idea as early as possible

When I have a new idea, I immediately create a canvas to determine if it's a non-starter based on some fundamentals. I like the Product Decision Canvas. It's a variant of the Lean Canvas designed to drive early decisions about new ideas (typically product ideas).


The next step is to focus on the problems this work would solve. That means identifying key problems being experienced by important stakeholders. For problem analysis, I often use a Problem Profile. This simple table captures the following information:

  • Problem Statement

  • Stakeholder Pain

  • Supporting Facts

  • Root Cause

  • Desired (Solution) State

I suggested that he identify the top 3 problems he'd like to solve, create a profile for each, and validate them with his leadership and some stakeholders. This exercise can help the team and stakeholders determine if these problems are worth solving.


There are many more steps in discovery, but starting with problem analysis is extremely valuable and too often overlooked. Failure to align on the problems significantly reduces the chances of aligning on solutions.


What would you have suggested?


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