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Product Development Nerds Unite

Published: September 22, 2016

I want to go to a conference with engineers, UX, customer success ninjas, data scientists, and product managers/owners! And talk about building stuff humans value.

1  WWivcBgwXizS1Sld8JBww Random stock photo from here . Sadly, without this image, I’ll have about 1/5th the number of readers.There are product management conferences, UX conferences, software engineering conferences, customer success conferences, Agile conferences, and design thinking bootcamps ($12,500 for four days). And then there are those pesky tracks (bless the single track conferences, by the way, because I’m a track swinger)

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Help me out here. I must be missing the obvious.

Barring some attempts (e.g. LeanWX 2016 by the LeanUX crew) and the startup focused conferences Lean Startup, I can’t seem to find a decent product development conference. You know, somewhere where the people who do the work — the people who wear the various hats — get together and talk about how to make the magic happen. We have all sorts of opportunities to learn how to make OUR magic happen, but not THE MAGIC.

Weary consultants have rightfully embraced organizational design as their last stand. It’s HOT. It’s where the money is, and frankly it is where the problem is as well. Either that, or the big bugaboo scaling. Whole-org Agility. Lean Startup for the Enterprise. Complexity Theory. The Learning Organization. Teal Orgs (what a color pick). Still…where do those of us in the trenches take off our respective hats and nerd out about the craft of product development? I get it, the whole-org stuff cuts big checks, but …

Remember when UX had to figure out how to coexist with Agile? And when UX decided to coexist with Lean? Or when Product Managers needed to be trained on devops? Or folks finally shed some light on the Agile PO Role (thanks Roman Pichler)? Or when people finally realized they were guessing all the time and needed to validate outcomes? There’s still work to be done, but I’ll pull out this quote from The Lean Mindset by Mary Poppendieck and Tom Poppendieck (with illustrations from Henrik Kniberg):

We have written three books about software development, but we couldn’t write a fourth, because the islands of software development have largely disappeared. In their place we find a new landscape, one in which infrastructure is a commodity and multidisciplinary teams are expected to ask the right questions, solve the right problems, and deliver solutions that customers love. True, those solutions are often software-intensive. In fact, just about everything is software-intensive these days, so isolating software on its own island doesn’t make much sense anymore.To what degree are we reinforcing these islands with the conferences we organize, departments we create, blog posts we write, and titles we assign? I’m not belittling the importance of craft, disciplines, and areas of practice. It’s all important and we’re getting pretty damn good at it. But I’m asking whether you also need an equal focus — a truly cross-functional focus — on the collaborative craft.

Are we structuring our learning like we have structured our orgs? Are we worrying more about the bastions of product, ux, agile coaching, and engineering more than the success of what we build?

This is why I love Jeff Patton’s story mapping book (see this video for a summary). On the surface the book is about story mapping, but the subtitle “Discover the Whole Story, Build the Right Product” is pretty spot on. It is a full-contact, full-team sport. And everyone plays.

Where do I go to get this fix? I love me some UX and Product conferences. But I’m also tired of people talking about other people when they’re not in the room. Where can we all get in the same room?

Let’s discuss in the comments (if you feel like it)