March 21, 2023

The Dean Peters Hypothesis: The Best Products Are Created From Problem-Focused Conversations

In this episode of the Product Science Podcast, we cover moving from solution space to problem space, the importance of building relationships with other departments, and what makes a great work environment for product managers.

The Dean Peters Hypothesis: The Best Products Are Created From Problem-Focused Conversations

Driven by a passion to replace pain points with user delight, Dean Peters has provided product management expertise across a variety of domains and technologies for nearly two decades. From large enterprises such as IQVIA and Citrix to startups such as Dude Solutions and Seven Lakes Technologies, to merged and acquired companies such as Aprimo and McClatchy, Dean has helped teams self-organize, and businesses deliver on the promise of highly usable and valuable outcomes.

In this episode of the Product Science Podcast, we cover moving from solution space to problem space, the importance of building relationships with other departments, and what makes a great work environment for product managers.

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Resource Links

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Questions we explore in this episode

How does Dean think about improving a startup’s product portfolio?

  • Talk to customers and learn their jobs-to-be-done
  • Build connections with sales and marketing to make sure they are selling the product that we actually have
  • Treat the roadmap like a strategic communication device rather than a Gantt chart
  • Reframe conversations from solution space to a focus on what problem they are trying to solve

How did the leadership support the growth culture at Dude Solutions, a startup that Dean worked at?

  • They made it a fun place to work
  • They have opportunities to learn, such as with analytics and experimentation
  • They prioritized communication both internal to the company and with customers

How does Dean go about building relationships?

  • Focus on getting to know people socially, separate from asking them for favors
  • Invest in relationships early, before you need anything from them
  • Practice the craft of storytelling to motivate and excite

Quotes from Dean Peteres in this episode

By reframing the conversation around the job to be done, moving the conversation back to the problem space, we were then able to go back to the solution space with something that we could afford to build and something that was much more productive for the people actually using it.
If you know the customer, if you know the market, you know the jobs, you have a little more resiliency than if you're focused just on features and getting the next shiny thing out the door.
It's a lot more of the soft skills and the social skills, and you just need to be able to walk right up to somebody and say, "Hi, I don't want anything. I just want to get to know you." And you'd be surprised, like I said, how much that could pay off. Get to know people if you're new at all. Or if you're in product, you've just been a product manager, now you're a director and you've just landed somewhere, I might tell them, "Start making friends. Let the first time they see you be in a more social setting or a more casual setting than when you need something." Just might go a little easier.

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Holly Hester-Reilly:Hi, and welcome to the Product Science Podcast where we're helping startup founders and product leaders build high-growth products, teams, and companies through real conversations with people who have tried it and aren't afraid to share lessons learned from their failures along the way. I'm your host, Holly Hester-Reilly, founder and CEO of H2R Product Science.This week on the Product Science Podcast, I'm sharing a conversation with Dean Peters. Dean is principal consultants and trainer at the 280 Group. Driven by a passion to replace pain points with user delight, Dean Peters has provided product management expertise across a variety of domains and technologies for nearly two decades. From large enterprises such as IQVIA and Citrix to startups such as Dude Solutions and Seven Lakes Technologies to merged and acquired company such as Aprimo and McClatchy, Dean has helped teams self-organize and businesses deliver on the promise of highly usable and valuable outcomes. Welcome, Dean.

Dean Peters:Hello, Holly. How are you doing?

Holly Hester-Reilly:I'm doing great. How are you?

Dean Peters:Good. I think I've got enough coffee and we're rolling.

Holly Hester-Reilly:Excellent. What part of the world do you live in?

Dean Peters:I'm in this little suburb near Raleigh or next to Raleigh called Apex, North Carolina. We call it the the peak of good living. We know this is true because it says so in all three of our water towers.

Holly Hester-Reilly:That's awesome. I love it. How's the tech scene down in North Carolina?

Dean Peters:Especially in Raleigh, we've got a little bit of tech going on here. I think we had that IBM thing going on for a while, and we've had Microsoft slumming around here for a while. And we've had some other companies like Epic Games, and oh, I think ShareFile had a stint here before it got acquired by Citrix. Now, we got this Pendo thing, this Pendo startup, which we think might have some legs to it that might do pretty well. So we're doing all right here in Raleigh.

Holly Hester-Reilly:Yeah, that's awesome. I have an affinity for North Carolina because that's where my dad is from. He's from Durham.

Dean Peters:Oh.

Holly Hester-Reilly:Exactly.

Dean Peters:Just up the road where they do baseball and barbecue, right?

Holly Hester-Reilly:Yeah, exactly. I grew up when we would go visit family going to Bullock's, which I think is in Durham, and having barbecue there.

Dean Peters:Alrighty, good. Because the last thing, I was just in Kansas City last week and I kept promising my wife, "I will not get in a fight over barbecue. I will not get in fight over barbecue." Even though some of the people in my class kept asking me about barbecue. But we avoided any incidents like the one we had in Austin a few years ago, which should be expunged and off the record by way.

Holly Hester-Reilly:Okay, we'll pretend it is and keep going. Have you always been in the North Carolina region or did you come there from somewhere else?

Dean Peters:No. I grew up around the DC area though I spent a lot of my summers in New York City with all my crazy Greek relatives up there after college, which was down here in North Carolina. I went up to New York City for about 10 years and then had enough of that, went down to DC for a while, had enough of that, and now I'm pretty much cemented here in the Raleigh, Durham area.

Holly Hester-Reilly:Got it. Cool. I'd love to hear a little more about how you got to where you are today in product.

Dean Peters:Yeah. It's interesting here because someone asked me how I got into product here and I was like, "A lot of people get into it." I was weird that a lot of things, I didn't so much either get into it or break into it. I curiously wandered in through the side door. Apparently, somebody left the side door open and I'm like, "Woo hoo, things look good. What are they cooking in there? Looks pretty good here."But at that time, I was a software engineer, had been doing some interesting projects for some large organizations that you may know about. I was a part of some contractor companies that did things for Department of Defense and then later the CDC, just some small projects like, oh, I don't know, the first metric identification for frequent passengers when I was doing the DOD contract. And then was one of the lead engineers in the integrators for the NHANES, which is this large national study of our nation's health, which sends out all these trailers with devices and has volunteers. And so I was the lucky engineer and integrator who got to connect all the devices that collected human specimens and analyze them and then push the data up to the cloud.And it was actually during that particular project, I was continually dissatisfied with user interface. Started with, "Hey, there's this thing by this UX thing here." And a few years before, through some, I don't know, misplacement or act of good luck I got sent to these classes that were being run by Apple on user experience. So here I already had user experience on my mind and I'm thinking, "How do we make the user experience better on this national study?" And then from there, I didn't realize what I was doing. I was getting into things like, "What is the job we're trying to get done here? Why are we adding all these things?" Because you'd have these people from these government agencies come in. "We need to add this bell, this whistle. Do this." And I'm like, "Aren't we just trying to get some data here or aren't we just trying to get someone through the border here?"And so I was continually in these conversations where I was challenging on behalf of simplicity and usability here. And so that's what got me into the area of exploring more, of going past the general things we learned about UX and started learning more about how's actually going to be at the other end of this? Who's actually going to be using it? What job were they trying to get done? And at some point, someone who had been working with me in the marketing department at both these organizations, we were just chatting over coffee one day and he goes, "Dean, have you thought about going into product management?" And I go, "I'm not sure what that is." And he goes, "You don't? You've been doing it for the past year and a half pretty much, but you're writing code too." And I'm like, "Oh." I was just finishing up my master's at night school and getting over at Hood College there.And so started exploring that. Next thing you know, I'm at Dude Solutions as running their product management for them and the rest is the sort of history there. I started there, cut my teeth there, made a lot of mistakes, a lot of learning there. What helped me out though was the fact that I've always, for whatever reasons, been able to build great teams. And so they basically build a team of product people for us. If I had to hire them and bring people in, I had actually know what it was. So even early then, voices like Ken Norton and a few others were very influential. And started studying those voices, voices like Marty Cagan, reading up on those, reading all the blogger-y that was going on.And from there, just kept learning because I kept enjoying it and kept wanting to do it. So just followed a typical path and you go from got dumped in and I was like, I was going to be the product manager and they said, "Build a team," which is unusual for a first time out. Then Great Recession hit and then took the normal path, product manager then doing platform product management, then moving up. And these, my last few stints here in a more senior role. But all along the way, just learning the craft of it, and I think that was influential. And along the way, there were certain skillsets that intrigued me coming from a technical background. For example, I started cutting my teeth with analytics all the way back when I was at Dude Solutions, and then got that on steroids at McClatchy being a news organization.

Holly Hester-Reilly:Tell us more about some of these companies. What did Dude Solutions do?

Dean Peters:Well, at the time it was SchoolDude, and then it was Dude Solutions. And most recently it got renamed and rebranded to Brightly. But I got there when it was 24 people in the US and about 20 people in Malaysia. It was a growth stage startup at the time. And they basically provided SaaS software for school districts and universities to run their facilities, keep the plumbing running, keep the lights on, keep the roof from leaking, things like that. And along the way, they had that nice model where our MaintenanceDirect product is going through it at its peak of its lifecycle. We need to bring another products to keep the revenue bumps. So they were bringing in, expanding their portfolio, and I helped them expand their portfolio in the various areas while I was there.

Holly Hester-Reilly:Okay. Oh, tell us more about that.

Dean Peters:Yeah, It was a matter of okay, what are some of the other needs we have? What are we hearing from these school districts? What are we hearing from these universities here? So products like ITDirect were launched which was helping them manage and handled all the various IT needs. They would have EnergyDirect which was the energy product, helped them keep your energy used low. And then a lot of also some of their API services that we were providing because some of these very large school districts, wanted to have a lot of this information piped into their accounting systems. So we built services there.

Holly Hester-Reilly:I'd love to dive in a little bit more into launching a product in a startup of that stage. One of the things that I've often found is, and I'm sure you've seen this, is that the second big launch often fails, that by the time a company gets to the stage where their first product has found product market fit, they start making mistakes they didn't make the first time around. And I'm curious to hear how that went when you were working with Dude Solutions.

Dean Peters:Yeah. It goes back and forth, those names, that I apologize for that. I got there it was SchoolDude. It moved to Dude Solutions. And like I said, now it's Brightly. And when I got there, they actually had a couple products there that were doing okay, but there was one product there that really intrigued me, which was their FacilitiesDirect product which allowed them to rent their school facilities for after hours events to various community interests. So it's the Boy Scouts, whether it's a church, whether it's a soccer league, whatever. They were renting out there after hours facilities. And this was a way for school districts to make revenue without having to raise a bond of referendum or raise taxes.I was challenged. We've got a little more churn. We aren't getting the traction that we like. I think this is what got me into down the analytics path because as we talked to some people on the exit interview, we started getting the feeling that hearing things that it was a little too complex, still easier to work with paper or Excel spreadsheets or being our biggest competitor at that time. And this was before we actually had a lot of systems like we have now. So still leading on my product background, looked into our SQL databases, went into our web logs, and tried to figure out what's happening here. That for me, as I was studying and reading up on various people how they do things, the thought was we have this four-step process we're running people through to go ahead and register their event. And I thought, "What would the data look like if we were doing this like an e-commerce, a shopping cart, and someone was abandoning the cart?"And approaching the data that way, we found a lumpiness. Actually, I found some divots in the data that I thought were alarming because you would see pretty much everyone, step one, step two, not a problem. It was when step three when I started to see a lot of fallout. And looked at a little more data, shaped that a bit more. We had these annual events in Myrtle Beach University where a lot of the customers would come down, experimented with some of those ideas along that, and realized it was just really just an act of simplicity. We just needed to make things a little more streamlined. There was a lot of complexity and a lot of nuance in MaintenanceDirect area. And justifiably, they had brought it over into FacilitiesDirect but without understanding they didn't need to bring all that complexity on.So when we removed the complexity, the product did much. And we had the same thing with our TripDirect product. It seemed that there was a disconnect. This was a product to manage, not fleets of buses or other transportation but really to deal with the events that were associated. So have a baseball team or a softball team that needs to get from point A to point B. And people in sales were trying to pitch this to the people in the garages who were trying to manage their fleet. And it was never supposed to be a fleet management. So that was less about modifying the product. The product was fine. It was nice, it was simple, it was pretty direct. What was failing was it's what I learned. You better have connections with sales and marketing to make sure that we're aiming it at the right party there.

Holly Hester-Reilly:Yeah. Tell me a little more about the nitty-gritty of that. How did the sales relationship look during the time when they were selling it to do something it wasn't supposed to do, and how did you fix it?

Dean Peters:Part of the problem was I just didn't know how they were doing that. That was my naivety. Like I said, I took this in here and it was just a matter of wanting to be in some of these conversations. It was actually in the course of going to that Dude University and just talking to customers who already owned our maintenance product, already owned our facilities rental product here, who were talking to about the possibility of upselling them to our energy product, our capital planning product, all these different parts of the product line. And just like I said, interesting conversations.And then I realized that we were talking to the wrong people. So I talked to a few more people in sales and they're like, "Oh yeah, we're trying to sell to this person." And then I had someone saying, "Hey, I'm trying to sell up to this person in this fleet." And it dawned at me like, "Whoa, has anyone ever told them?" And it was just a matter of just we just got ourselves together at some point, just like, "Hey, maybe we don't want to talk to the fleet manager with this product here. It's likely the wrong audience for this product here. We're really designed to sell this product here." And we just got on the same page. It was just communications thing. I teach that now. I've done it for years. But that was where I wandered in through the side door on that. "Oh wow, we're missing a connection here."

Holly Hester-Reilly:Those second, third, fourth, whatever number launches at Dude, how successful were they?

Dean Peters:Like I said, I think overall the product was very successful. Like I said, the company grew wonderfully. During the Great Recession, we had the same problem a lot of companies had. A lot of it was because they were funding through bank loans as opposed to getting ventures. So they finally had to go to the private equity route and so forth. But by then, like I said, I had already moved on there. But I think they did really well. Like I said, they got private equity, they grew very big. Now, they're Brightly and even bigger here. So if the company had a great trajectory here, a lot of that was due to a lot of great leadership by just some really great executive leadership who allowed there to be growth culture there. In other words, they didn't get in the way of the culture and really helped keep us focused on those things that mattered.

Holly Hester-Reilly:What did that look like? What were some of the ways that they supported the growth culture?

Dean Peters:They just made it fun to work. For example, I was able to learn more about analytics. I was able to do some experimentation there. We had some failures. We had some bumps in the road. But it wasn't like some places I've been where you've had screaming, vice presidents screaming in people's face, where you've had people who are just not listening to the rank and file. And I think the biggest thing is not only they want us keep communicating with each other, they wanted us to keep communicating with the customer. It was very customer-focused. And so just this constant reminder that we love our customers and we want them to love us, so we need to just keep making sure that we're connected with them. And I think that was really healthy, great place to work.

Holly Hester-Reilly:One of the things that often is a challenge for teams that are trying to stay connected to the customers in a B2B type of environment is fights over who owns the relationship with the customer and a difficulty between sales or account management. I'm curious, did you encounter any of that there?

Dean Peters:No. Actually, we did. But it was we were actually more invited. "Hey, I got a sales call. Come along." I've been at those organizations, all right? Later in my career. I was at organizations where there were some gorilla tactics we had to use to talk to customers where it's, "No, you can't talk to the customer. You might foul this up." And that surprised me because like I said, I had been blessed to be in a culture where if you needed to speak to customers, if you needed to create a bench of early adopters, it was really easy to do there early on. I don't know how that culture is now. I haven't been there since 2010. I don't know how it's changed since then. I would hope it's still the same there. But I know what you're talking about. I've been at those other organizations where it's very difficult to get into either customers or potential customers, and I've always found that strange.

Holly Hester-Reilly:What do you do when you encounter it?

Dean Peters:I've seen some interesting techniques and tactics. I knew one product manager at one of these larger organizations I work with. She's still there so I won't say the organization, but she started inviting herself to various Facebook groups and meeting professionals who might be the end user and creating relationships there. And so that's how she got early adopters. When I was working at Citrix, one of the things I did was in the leverage Pendo's ability to go ahead and put a little in-app message saying, "Would you like to speak to the product manager on search? Let me have your email address. Let me know who you are." And I was able to get names and email addresses of people who are the customers there who are interested in talking. And so there are ways of doing this. And like I said, there are company events. Some of these companies you can get to them, you can start talking to clients. So it's possible.I think now in retrospective, I probably landing at some of these organizations, I would work even harder to create some relationships. But as I tell my classes, "Don't make the first time someone in sales or legal sees you being the first time you need a favor." And so you might want to take some of these company events and start meeting people. I'll bring up Citrix again. I knew that I needed to meet more people and get connected better to the customer problem, and they had these huge events here. And so I remember one of the first events, I realized that maybe I need to get to know who's in the customer support group. So asked some of my coworkers, "Do they cluster in that particular company?" A lot of the support people were clustered over in one corner of this large area. And I just walked in and introduced myself and started conversations and making friends and learning from them. And that gave me another avenue into some customer insights.So there are ways of doing that. Again, it's a lot more of the soft skills and the social skills, and you just need to be able to walk right up to somebody and say, "Hi, I don't want anything. I just want to get to know you." And you'd be surprised, like I said, how much that could pay off. Get to know people if you're new at all. Or if you're in product, you've just been a product manager, now you're a director and you've just landed somewhere, I might tell them, "Start making friends. Let the first time they see you be in a more social setting or a more casual setting than when you need something." Just might go a little easier.

Holly Hester-Reilly:Yeah, it's so important to build those relationships. It really helps a lot. When I first started in a growth stage startup, it was actually my first time in a private company that was more than a hundred people. And I started taking notes on the things that I learned about people's personal lives and stuff like that because I was like, "Okay, I need to learn who these people are and get to know them, like them as humans." And it went a long way.

Dean Peters:Oh, yeah. Like I said, the first thing I did when I got to Seven Lakes was just I wanted to do a tour of the people and a tour of the customers. I wanted to learn some of the faces there and learn where they were at and what their work lives were at. And just let them see me here and just hear their stories because their stories are more interesting than mine.

Holly Hester-Reilly:Yeah, that's a great point. I think hearing their stories is really valuable. So what did Seven Lakes do?

Dean Peters:So Seven Lakes, this is interesting here. Let me set it up with IQVIA and then get to Seven Lakes. This is the interesting part. I'd been at Citrix there, I wasn't satisfied, decided I was looking for a change. And I knew some people working at IQVIA which is a big CRO, clinical research organization, that had merged with a large medical health organization. So this is monster company that deals in clinical trials. Now, this is late 2019 and I'm thinking to myself, "Yeah, clinical trials. I did a lot of work when I was at West Step for the CDC in the medical area. Let's get back into it. Clinical trials sounds interesting."So I get there in January of 2020, worked with a product that helps develop clinical trial strategies. As I like the joke, working on the roadmaps, working on the backlogs. I had them all. I had my business case approved and I had all my backlogs and everything neat and tidy. On March 10th of 2020, I was ready to start rolling. The following...

Holly Hester-Reilly:Oh, boy.

Dean Peters:Yeah. And this is what I tell people. This is where I learned if you know the customer, if you know the market, you know the jobs, you have a little more resiliency than if you're focused just on features and getting the next shiny thing out the door. Because just like every CRO in the world at that point decided that for whatever reasons on March 15th, their focus was just going to be a one particular issue.

Holly Hester-Reilly:Gosh, I wonder.

Dean Peters:Yeah, so that was interesting there. And I did that for a while and I got a call out of the blue about... I'd been there for IQVIA about a year and a half. Got a call out of the blue saying, "Look, we got this gross stage startup called Seven Lakes." They're in upstream oil and gas. So they're creating software for the people who are extracting, who go explore, find, and get natural gas and oil out of the ground here. It deals with a lot of SCADA where they have all these monitors and all these devices.

Holly Hester-Reilly:I'm sorry. SCADA? What's a SCADA?

Dean Peters:SCADA. It's basically, it's a system. It's supervisory control and data acquisition. So think of IOT.

Holly Hester-Reilly:Okay.

Dean Peters:You got all these sensors on all these places here and they just send, phone home. "Oh no, you need to get someone here and take a look at this." All right? And imagine they have these great expanses here in the US and elsewhere or offshore where they have to send people to either do maintenance or either regular maintenance or emergency maintenance. So you have these people who spend a lot of windshield time and pick up trucks on the flattest places on earth I've ever seen, in the most hostile conditions I've ever seen. And how do you take that one person and have them maintain or keep maintenance of 150 or 200 wells over several hundred acres of land here? And of course I tell this recruiter here, this white label recruiter, I was like, "Nah, it sounds to me like you're looking for a CPO. I just don't know if..." And I said, "I know what you need here, but I don't know if I'm the right guy for this."We went back and forth for a few months. He finally talked me into it. I was like, "All right, this will be my chance. Maybe you have a Dude over. Go back to what it was like when I was at SchoolDude and say, 'Hey, what did I do wrong or what didn't I do at Dude that I could do better here at Seven Lakes?'" Went there. And of course, our customers, they were oil companies of various sizes. There's a lot of small operators, very small operators out there. And we span from small operators up to large companies like Exxon.And well, it's interesting there because again, this is where understanding how to respond to changing market conditions. And this is where I really am thankful for a lot of my Agile training that I received, being responsive to change and keeping your pulse on the figure of the market here and my work in analytics, because this is where it really paid off. Because when I got there, again, just similar to what happened at IQVIA, oil and gas was at $55 a barrel. So it was interesting there because that governed how these companies worked. It was pretty low so there, it was all about cost saving.

Holly Hester-Reilly:Oh yeah, I've heard that. It changes a lot depending on the oil market.

Dean Peters:Within a few months we hear there, it's doubled up to 110. And again, all these roadmaps, I had all these plans, guess what? The market's no longer buying for these reasons. How do you finish up the work you have at hand? How do you pivot there? And like I said, it was an interesting growth stage startup. They eventually exited through an acquisition through W Energy. But it was a lot of fun working there because again, I got to do a lot of things. For example, brought in a sense of analytics, brought in a sense of, "Hey, we need to really start focusing on the problems at hand here. In other words, how do we work in a way that it's more connected here?" So we didn't have some of the disconnects we ran into when I was at a place like SchoolDude, that it was early in its growth at that time.

Holly Hester-Reilly:Yeah. How did you not have those disconnects?

Dean Peters:I think a lot of it was, like I said, learning from my mistakes. First, a lot of it was understanding that there are processes, there are artifacts, there are documents that you can have and share. For example, treating the roadmap like a strategic communications device instead of a Gantt chart, rethinking how the teams are set up, working with the head of IT so we can say, "Look, we actually want to have these teams working more with high autonomy and high accountability as trying to make this top-down. There's no way we're going to scale and grow, continue having top-down communication here." So helping, working with the head of engineering, and together we were able to say, "Look, this isn't us about telling you what you have to do each day. This is about you understanding the value."I think the biggest thing was rebooting. I had seriously, there was a product who I had the pleasure of leading here. And some of these people, their degrees, their pedigrees, where they went to school, their experience. I had one who had go on the Harvard, had degrees in mechanical engineering, had worked on oil rigs, knew the domain. But when I watched them work with teams, when I watched them do their product demo, so one of the biggest things I left them with was the ability to reframe arguments. I think the biggest thing I taught them was, and it was one of the things I had to learn the hard way coming from a technical background, was our customers, our stakeholders, our engineering team, all speak to us in solution speak.

Holly Hester-Reilly:Yes, it's very powerful.

Dean Peters:Because it's the only language they really know. There's a few that don't, but most of them speak to us in solution speak. And it was great joy to see how I was able to get to these women and gentlemen to evolve, do anytime they would be presented with solution speak to reframe it back into the problem space. One of the best examples, we had a customer who had old pieces of software there. They had these lease operators and these pickup trucks driving around with big old Windows laptops within something that was this compiled version of Microsoft Access that gave them three or four charts and to see how various wells were producing. And they came to us saying, "Look, this is off. We're nowhere supported. It's been around for 15 years or something here. We need you to rewrite it." And of course they're coming to us saying they want it just like the product.

Holly Hester-Reilly:Yep, exactly the same.

Dean Peters:And of course I'm telling the CEO and the CMO like, "I'm not rebuilding a web version or mobile version of Microsoft Access. That's not going to happen." So it really was a conversation of how we reframe it. So I come into the conversations and one of the conversations I have is with some of these directors is, "Tell me what you really want these lease operators to do. What is the two or three things they need to do most with the data here? Because I noticed every day they have to come into the depot and download all the data here. What is it you're trying to get?" And, "We want them to be able to see these three or four charts here because yet these various intersections on these various visuals, that tells them where they need to prioritize or need to be more alert on their work."And I'm like, "Okay, so you're trying to, you're giving them autonomy, which is good, to make decisions on data, which is good, I think. But do we really want them to become data scientists or database DBAs? We're giving them a lot of data. We're making them swim through queries. We're making having to go through this hire. What happens if we were just to give them these charts every day so when they come in, it's on their phone. What if we were just able to give them that information?" And so we started reframing the conversation around the problem of the job to be done as opposed to the system to be rebuilt. And we were able to finally, there were some back and forth. We did have to give them certain amount of data, give them some other capabilities. But we definitely did not rebuild Microsoft Access for a mobile phone. And it was a much lighter and faster application. And the lease operators absolutely loved it because it was much smaller, much lighter, got to the job.You're talking about people, a lot of the people they hire to be lease operators are engineer type. And I'm talking about let's take the wrench and fix the well types where they have to be mechanical engineers and electrical engineers and have some understanding of chemistry all at the same time here. A lot of them have military backgrounds and they just didn't have the heart or desire to swim through that. So just give me the data. So by reframing the conversation around the job to be done, moving the conversation back to the problem space, we were then able to go back to the solution space with something that we could afford to build and something that was much more productive for the people actually using it.

Holly Hester-Reilly:Yeah. I'm curious, it sounds like you've worked in a variety of different industries and roles, but now you're at 280 Group. So what do you do there?

Dean Peters:Yeah. So I am teaching people from my experiences, both good, bad, and ugly. I'm teaching from the experience of others that have provided the curriculum for 280 Group. So on any given week, I could be teaching Agile product management. One of the things I didn't tell you about the history was when I was at Dudes Solutions, I'd gotten introduced to Agile when I went to a few Microsoft conferences. When I went to McClatchy, they were definitely doing Agile, and I had the blessing of Bob Galen showing up and helping being one of the coaches there.

Holly Hester-Reilly:Sure. And for any listeners who don't know, who's Bob Galen?

Dean Peters:Bob Galen, he's an author. He's a well-known Agile coach. He's a coach of Agile coaches. His most recent book is Extraordinarily Badass Agile Coaching: The Journey from Beginner to Mastery and Beyond. And he's a local here in the Raleigh area, but he's well-known around the world for his Agile. And so once you learn from the feet of Bob, you can't not learn how to be Agile here. It's just impossible. One of the things at 280, I teach the Agile product management course. I teach digital product management, which is a type of course that I would wished we had when I got to SchoolDude and I wish I realized was available when I got to Seven Lakes. Because I would've just said, "All right, here's how we take all these thousand things we have to do with these hundreds of people we have to talk to and keep us focused on value. "And then I teach the optimal product management as well, which also is less geared around the product-led growth than the digital product management. But we find that it's people who, like I said, for larger organizations and organizations who may not just be working in software have found this valuable as well. So teaching these classes and doing some consulting along with that has just been really rewarding because as you probably see in my profile here, there is the worst kept secret on the internet with Mike's deep dark secret of a secret past life as an opera singer.

Holly Hester-Reilly:Yes, I remember seeing that. Yeah.

Dean Peters:Yeah. And please don't tell anyone, let's just make this our secret here. But one of the reasons I got into product management was the fact that I did miss the people part of it when I was just doing the engineering. I do love the sprint review, the product demo, whatever you want to call it here. One of the things I've always left any organization I've been with is the storytelling. And if you have nothing else, that's one of the things I love. Like I said, when I was at Seven Lakes, I was really, and even when I left IQVIA, I was really proud of the culture of storytelling we had inculcated those groups with. I did the same thing when I was at Aprimo.

Holly Hester-Reilly:Why is storytelling so valuable?

Dean Peters:Just all of operas, nothing but storytelling on an at scale. But it's actually done incrementally. And that's the interesting thing here. When you're putting together a show, whether it's a new or an old show, when you're actually performing a show, you're incrementally building on various notions here. And so the storytelling, and I got into the theater when I was six and I worked professionally there. I was actually, I did summer stock. I've done professional work. And for me it's just a storytelling because I was never the star. I was never the star tenor. I was never the love interest here. I was always either the comic or the villain.And for me, because we're the catalyst, we're the character they've actually put into the story to move things along. So after someone has come up and stopped the show with some big aria, they put the brakes on everything. They send a knucklehead like me in to come in and just move the plot along here. And isn't that what we do in product? We keep moving the plot along after whatever's happened, great release, a disastrous delivery. At some point, we need to come in either as that comic or that villain and keep the show going despite the fact that children may have stolen the wagon that was supposed to come on stage and they're in the parking lot playing with it now or lights fall in. People in the orchestra of booby trapping my chairs. But I'm not bitter about any of those incidents.

Holly Hester-Reilly:Not at all. Clearly you're never bitter about that happening.

Dean Peters:Not at all. No. No.

Holly Hester-Reilly:Awesome. This has been really fun. I'm afraid we're about out of time. Where can people find you if they want to follow you?

Dean Peters:Sure. They can find me at LinkedIn. Just look up LinkedIn, Dean Peters. They can find me at Twitter, @deanpeters. And they can look Dean Peters at the 280 Group. If you want to have me come in and provide you with some training, that will not be boring. I can at least guarantee that and will come with a host of stories from both my past and that of others. For me, it's just a passion now to start sending the ladder down. As you can tell from the graying and missing hair, I really feel it's my job now to send a ladder down to an emerging generational product manager awesomeness.

Holly Hester-Reilly:Awesome. All right. Well, thank you so much, Dean. It's been a pleasure to talk to you today.

Dean Peters:Holly, thank you for having me on my show. This was really fun. Appreciate it.

Holly Hester-Reilly:Yeah, absolutely.The Product Science Podcast is brought to you by H2R Product Science. We teach startup founders and product leaders how to use the product science method to discover the strongest product opportunities and lay the foundations for high growth products, teams, and businesses. Learn more at Enjoying this episode? Don't forget to subscribe so you don't miss next week's episode. I also encourage you to visit us at to sign up for more information and resources from me and our guests. If you like the show, a rating and review would be greatly appreciated. Thank you.

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