Product management can improve your parenting

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In parts one and of them in this series, we covered how to understand your baby client, frameworks for identifying solutions to needs, prioritization and story mapping. Today we’re going to focus on executing and defining your MVP, being a agile parent, progress tracking and customer feedback.

What is a minimum viable configuration?

The same way we create MVPs for software, parents need to define their MVS (Minimum Viable Configuration) and iterate on their solution as the baby grows and their needs change. This approach is especially true for baby rooms, toys and transportation.

More from Erik WidmanWhy Product Management Is Like Parenting

Define your MVP… or MVS

When dreaming of parenthood, expectant parents fantasize about a perfectly appointed home, the baby playing happily in a decorated room, and all is well in the universe. However, this ideal scenario is more of a dream than what happens in practice. Parents often find that their child doesn’t play with the toys they bought or the baby gadget that promised to solve their problems didn’t work. I call this phenomenon the parent-baby needs gap. Rather than anticipating problems that may never exist, parents should start small and solve problems as they arise.

Similar to how we create MVP for software, parents must define their MVS — Minimum Viable Setup — and iterate on their solution as the baby grows and their needs change. This approach is especially true for baby rooms, toys and transportation.

For example, a nursery shouldn’t be designed for a one-year-old when you come home from the hospital. Focus only on the essentials: a good changing table, a comfortable sleep setup, blackout curtains, and three to five developmental toys (or household items). Everything else can wait until your baby reaches the next stage of development. Don’t worry about painting the walls, shopping for baby furniture, or buying the latest baby IoT gear; that’s all the noise for now. Focus on what matters.

Be an agile parent

As most new parents know, things rarely go as planned with toddlers. You may have a game plan for the day, only to find that things got crazy and didn’t go the way you thought they would. However, I have found my agile/scrum training to be helpful as a parent and allowed me to make quick pivots throughout the day. Here are some helpful tips for pivoting quickly:

Agile planning for parenting

  1. Have a backup plan.
  2. Have a backup plan for the backup plan.
  3. Have a backup plan for the backup plan for the backup plan.
  4. When all else fails… pass the baton to mom.

Kidding aside, the key to being an agile parent is to not be locked into your blueprint (or roadmap). Instead, have back-up plans when your experiments fail (like we do with user testing), and don’t be afraid to change your strategy when you discover new information.

Progress Tracking

As Product Managers (PMs), we like to track our product KPIs and try to push them to the next level. This is an area where I think we have to be very careful as parents and not treat our children like commodities. As I have said in my previous articles, every child is different and develops in different ways and at different rates. Life is not a race, and we shouldn’t treat it that way.

The CDC publishes stages of development that you should know and use as a reference to follow some of the fundamental milestones of your child’s development.

In addition to milestones, I have found tracking my child’s activities beneficial, which helps me stay organized as a parent. For this, I like to use a kanban board stuck to my fridge.

Kanban can help you track baby activities on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis. Author’s picture.

Kanban allows me to track daily, weekly and monthly activities and make sure nothing slips through the cracks. I organize my board into To do, In progress, Blocked and Done columns, and my wife and I move the tasks along the board as we complete them. The process may seem a bit OCD to some people, but it’s a great way to stay in tune with your partner.

Customer Feedback (Baby)

PMs measure customer behavior and talk to customers to get feedback on their products. Although it can be difficult to indirectly measure a baby’s behavior, it is essential that you communicate with your client and check in on how you are doing.

As stated in the first part, one of the toughest challenges as a parent is the communication barrier with your new baby. Although they may not communicate verbally when they are very young, they try to tell you all kinds of things in their own way. So you just need to learn their language.

Babies communicate from birth through crying and eye contact, as well as simple sounds and gestures. Make sure to get closer to their face as their eyesight isn’t very good and communicate with them through eye contact and a warm facial expression. In later stages of development, babies communicate with sounds and gestures. Pay attention to the subtle gestures and noises your baby may make when you talk to him. five key needs. They may move their legs and arms in excitement or distress and later move on to gestures like pointing.

A frowning baby
Sometimes it’s easy to understand your customer. | Image: Erik Widman

Their communication skills change rapidly over time, and they’ll eventually start making sounds that mimic you and try to form basic words (though they don’t know what they mean).

How often should you collect feedback from your small customer? A daily check-in from day one is beneficial to help their cognitive development. You can even make baby coos and mimic them while having conversations in your imagined baby talk – I had many long gibberish conversations with my son which he found quite fascinating.

Studies have shown that children who are read to for at least 20 minutes a day are exposed to almost 2 million words a year. Another one study shows that children who read a short book a day enter their early school years hearing nearly 300,000 more words than those whose parents do not read to them. If a parent reads more than one book, the number increases again; five books a day increases their vocabulary exposure by 1.4 million words! Daily reading has a significant impact on your childs vocabulary into adulthood and sets them up for a good start in life.

Parenting + ProductHow to Parent Like a Product Manager

Wrap

I hope you found this series on parenting as a product manager exciting and that I convinced you that PMs have excellent skills for successful parenting. The key takeaways from this series are:

  • Don’t aim to become a parent right from the start. Instead, start small, set your MVS, and keep iterating as your child progresses to the next phase.
  • Prioritize what is most important to your child right now. Don’t try to solve problems that don’t yet exist.
  • Things change quickly; what works today might work tomorrow. Be an agile parent, have plenty of backup plans, experiment and try new things with your child, and keep going with your solution until it doesn’t work (which might be sooner than you think)
  • Don’t feel judged. Your little client does not crave perfection. More than anything, they just want to hang out with you and feel loved.

Please share your thoughts on social media about parenting as a professional and the skills you have learned in your profession that have helped you become a better parent. You can find me on LinkedIn to connect more on the subject.

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