Question: Is there any value in group therapy-like activities for product managers & product owners? I think there is. Here are 5 reasons, each supported several links as to why … followed by a personal call to action.
1. We snicker about it on Twitter
Did you know laughter can alter dopamine & serotonin activity? That cracking-wise is a positive fear response that helps deal with the stress & loss of focus brought on by cortisol, epinephrine, & DOPAC levels in our blood? Given the pressures & pain points people of product face daily, is it any wonder why we snort & chortle about it in drive-by Tweets on the topic?
The probability that a meeting full of product managers devolves into what sounds like a group therapy session approaches 1 the longer the meeting goes. (Feel free to call this Garcia’s Law.) ~ 7:13 PM · Aug 14, 2020
Just had a great call that *started* as a demo of @ProdPad but finished as more of a therapy session, like the Roadmap Clinics I do 🙂
We talked about how to deal with tricky stakeholders, how to move to a leaner way of working and roadmapping, and a bunch more. — 6:21 AM · Apr 29, 2020
And then there’s this hilarious gem from Alex Ye … well hilarious if you’re not an engineer 😉
Friend: “Product managers are just therapists for engineers” — 6:56 PM · Nov 30, 2020
We have this tidy summary via Eva Ferguson”
Finally, let’s just call it what it is …
In this episode @csell5 is joined by @cjibo and @geekoncoffee to talk about this thing called product management. Let’s just call it group therapy … Watch it here: — buff.ly/2LmTiQf1:00 PM · Aug 23, 2018
2. We refer to Meetups & Product Camps as Group Therapy
Have you ever noticed that ALL product meetups and unconferences inevitably devolve into some form of group therapy? IMHO, it’s really only a question if this occurs during the networking, sharing, or activities portion of any given gathering.
It’s probably the reason I found soooo many references along these lines. For brevity’s sake I offer this handful of individuals referring to various product people gatherings as group therapy:
- David Nash “founded ProductCamp Portland in 2012 as group therapy for product management professionals.“
- Adam Sigel of Boston Product had similar aspirations, or as he put it: “It turns out I wasn’t alone, and every other PM feels the same frustrations, whether it’s managing internal feedback or dealing with being under-resourced. Our monthly breakfasts are more like group therapy than an industry event.”
- Jennifer Doctor tweeted, “… new reason to attend ProductCamp Minnesota: learning, networking & now group therapy for product management & marketing pros”
- Speaking of Dan Olsen’s Lean Product Meetup, Jim Morris offers, “… it’s definitely group therapy…and it feels good … we just shared our answers to ‘I am proud of…’ with our stranger now friend … then the listener is asked to say what the ‘superpower’ is of the other person” —
- Not surprisingly, Product Camp Melbourne sums up the sentiment here with “ProductCamps are part tent revival, part group therapy, and part amazing recipe swap gathering.”
- Finally, from the folks who brought you Mind the Product, we have this as an introduction to the 2019 ‘World Product Day special – Martin Eriksson & Emily Tate on The Product Experience‘ that reads: “From humble beginnings with 25 people in the back room of a pub in London in May 2010 looking for a group therapy session, the ProductTank meetups have grown to over 180 cities with hundreds of thousands of people signed up. “
3. Product Managements Consultants openly pitch Group Therapy
This is why I’m not surprised to find individuals who advocate for group therapy as part of their consulting practices.
- “Whether You’re Building A New Product Or Improving An Existing One, The Product Therapist Is For You. Get In Touch To Get Started.” — Ravi Mishra
- “Create platforms for feedback. … … James E. Rogers gathered managers together for meetings that functioned as a group therapy session.” — Sequent Learning
- Jim Benson, the co-creator of Lean Coffee, in a podcast on Scrum.org, describes it as a “… powerful technique, for … retrospectives, conferences, meet-up’s, classrooms and of course with clients … [including] group therapy.“
Agile Coach & Leadership Coach at StoneJo Coaching & Consulting mentions her 2019 Toronto Agile Conference presentation ‘Courageous Agile – Making the Elephant Visible‘ spoke to “… retrospective that started the team to open up to a group therapy session to explore what was ***really*** wrong.“
- Meetical takes this last idea one step further with “Retrospectives are the most important meeting to foster a culture of continuous improvement … Besides being an excellent group therapy, it’s a product manager’s role to share his thoughts about the sprint performance and bring in strategic viewpoints and customer perspectives.”
- Or from the post ‘What Everyone Failed to Mention about Being a PM in School‘ by Speckled, “Another 30% of your time is going to be spent in meetings …talking about how to get stakeholders on board, doing product management things, and serve as group therapy sessions.“
- “Directors and VPs of Product rarely have an opportunity to network informally with our peers. We’re busy riding herd on semi-chaotic product cycles; intensely networking … mentoring our teams; deflecting today’s barrage of random interrupts; carving time out for home. Let’s not be neglect the value in meeting, sharing and naming our challenges. Even if it feels like group therapy.” — Rich Mironov
- And finally, past VPO & CPO, and current Founder & CEO of GroupWell is taking applying her product management skills to “ transform[ing] mental healthcare by combining virtual group therapy with analytics to deliver personalized relationship-centered care.“
4. There are Websites, Podcasts, & even former Therapists advocating for PM Group Therapy
Do you sometimes find yourself feeling isolated or powerless as you observe unhealthy product practices?
You are not alone!
The fact is that all of us in product management feel frustrated and confused by some of the chaos we deal with in our corporate settings … which explains these fabulous finds:
- “People need to vent. They need to rant. They need to get things off their chest. Most of all, they need to know that they’re not alone.” — MVP.FYI — Group therapy for Product People
- “All in all, there are skill sets that are shared between Psychologists and Product Managers, which explains how someone with a psychology background can transition into product management.” — From Therapist to Product Manager | by Cara Paley
- “Product Therapy is a podcast about product management hosted Ben Erez & Brandon Lucas Green, two PMs who need to talk some things out.”
5. I Also Validated the Need via Conversations & Presentations
Finally, I started formulating some thoughts regarding the specific need for product management group therapy back in late 2017 … in large part inspired by countless conversations with many fantastic product people at the numerous product management and agile meetups we used to enjoy here in the Raleigh-Durham area … and hope to enjoy sometime again in 2021.
Here’s a video of the ProductTank RTP session I held for product managers on March 21, 2019, titled ‘Product Therapy with Dean Peters.’
I went on to hold two similar sessions specifically geared towards product owners and then Agile coaches.
All 3 sessions yielded similar interactions, conversations, and outcomes you see in the video.
I also collected some qualitative data in preparation for the ProductTank RTP therapy session, asking participants to contribute ideas to the following prior to our gathering … there were~40 unique cards posted within 72 hours of the ask.
Yeah, okay, so I did ‘doctor’ the names of some of the ailments to make them a bit more memorable … but without sacrificing the meaning of the original hurt enumerated.
So What’s Next?
Given the body of evidence above, I think it’s time I finally off my shrinking posterior and get started on my own podcast titled ‘Product Management Group Therapy’ to address the problems and pain points product owners, product managers, UX designers, business analytics, CPOs, VPOs, and directors of product face on a daily basis.
I’ve got all the material, all the gear, all the technical know-how from my secret past life as a professional musician … now it’s simply a matter of execution. I’m hoping to get a set of initial episodes out by mid-March 2021.
Please, feel free to hold me accountable for this.