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Projectopia is Product Management

Andy Rosic, Innovation Product Manager at Home Depot, shares his approach to managing large-scale projects and provides advice on building leadership skills and earning responsibility.

It’s unsurprising that companies born in the digital age, such as Uber and Amazon, are constantly exploring new growth opportunities and developing new products. Home Depot, the largest home improvement retailer in the US with over 400,000 employees and over $100 billion in revenue, is also doing so. At an organization of such scale, however, it’s not an easy feat.

Enter Andy Rosic, Innovation Product Manager at Home Depot. He’s developed a project management and leadership framework that he calls “Projectopia.”

Andy has worked at both startups and large companies, in the mobile and home goods industries. Throughout his career, he realized how important it is to have strong communication and leadership skills when managing complex projects.

Product managers tends to focus on shipping product, however, if stakeholders aren’t aligned with the roadmap and strategy of that product, shipping can be costly – both in terms of budget and reputation.

To ensure that everyone is working with the same assumptions and towards the same goals, it's essential to first get control of what you think you should be working on, Andy says. Spend time with customers, and ask if the problem that you’re solving actually resonates with them.

If an executive makes a request that doesn’t align with customer needs, work your way back to the original problem, and make sure to involve them in building out a solution that is in line with the company’s mission.

To combat the tendency to over-pack projects with unnecessary features, Andy says you and your team need to sit together in a room and lay everything out. When you do this as a team, stakeholders often have a visceral reaction to certain feature requests, which allows you to have a productive dialogue about what should and shouldn’t be included.

To effectively determine what should be included in the project, you and other members of your team need to have an opinion. Andy recommends estimating development costs to get sense of ROI. You can use quick math to get an idea of sprint costs. For example, if a typical sprint costs around $100,000, then over the course of a ten month project, if you do a sprint every other week, it will come out to about $2,000,000. Ask your team if they expect to earn $2,000,000 or more when from the project.

By knowing your costs, you improve your ability to prioritize. It further allows you to advocate for small tests. You can then iterate and eventually get major returns. Andy advocates for making the smallest possible bet to get a solution that works. This is a low-risk approach, and people generally like to reduce risk.

Most people haven’t stopped to think about these details, so by having a grasp, Andy says you can stand out from everyone else. The more you do that, the more will be seen as a leader who’s making thoughtful considerations for company.

I asked Andy how he handles projects that aren’t going as well as expected. Any recommends blocking off an hour, finding an empty room, looking at what progress you’ve made, and asking yourself: “what’s left?” and “what’s most frustrating about this project?” Then, get the right people together, and figure out a new route forward. Include the right people, and work with them to figure out a route to success or an appropriate exit strategy.

Leadership is something that you can earn by including others, taking responsibility, and building trust. By taking ownership of projects, you can skyrocket your professional development and career trajectory.

You’ll learn a lot from this episode about leadership and project management.

Here are the highlights:

  • The most common mistakes product managers make when managing large projects (5:55)
  • Andy’s approach to aligning key stakeholders (9:41)
  • The project management tools that Andy uses to boost his team’s productivity (25:20)
  • How Andy deals with projects that aren’t going as well as planned (35:54)
  • Andy’s advice for gaining leadership skills (41:06)

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