One Degree of Separation

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Startups are exciting!


Everyone believes so. But what is that’s so exciting about a Startup? You can almost use this question as a Rorschach Test to find out what is lacking in their career now.

Everyone has something they feel/think is great about startups: the transparency, lack of bureaucracy, connect with client, knowledge about vital stats of an org, flat hierarchy, ability to control your own fate within org, see effects of your contribution, struggle to find answers for basic questions like how will the org make money, fact that we own the problem and not blame others, so on and so forth.

The Other Side!


While we tend to get enamoured by the opportunities startups throws at us, the other side is hardly discussed. Something that all entrepreneurs surrender to, live through and ultimately succumb to. But that is a conversation for another day.

The One Degree Separation  


One thing that startups offer (and is root cause of many things exciting about it) is that founders and early employees are just one degree away from the consequences of their work/decision.

They know revenue generated, cost incurred, potential and compromises, success first hand and what product/decision caused that.

There is no alienation from the consequences of the product they produce.

So What?


This is one thing large Enterprises and Software Services company specially can adopt/imbibe from startups world:

One Degree of Separation from the consequences of our work.

Once we are aware of the consequences of our work, finding, owning and solving problems will be self-motivated. If we are are not aware, we will continue to be a cog in the wheel that is unaware of its importance.

Also, Software Services companies work with a clients on a product/project. They are inherently always few degree away from the consequences of their work. At times the department they work with (example Engineering), itself is few degrees away from the department which faces the final consequences of the work (example Support).

So This Means?


With each degree of separateness, the context, sense-of-ownership, the awareness for value delivered decreases exponentially.

So, What Next?

In order to adopt/imbibe this key lesson, the challenge is how to be one degree separate from the consequences of the work. That can be best answered by the organisation itself.


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Are Startups a MVP for Maslow Hierarchy?


What’s a MVP?

MVP has features just enough to prove a value and justify continued development.

mvp minimum viable product

We have all seen this. The MVP cuts across the value hierarchy and delivers a bit of each level.

What’s Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs*?

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is a motivational theory in psychology comprising a five tier model of human needs, often depicted as hierarchical levels within a pyramid.


We have all seen this. The theory stated that people are motivated to achieve certain needs, and that some needs take precedence over others. Once that level is fulfilled the next level up is what motivates us, and so on.

Startups and Maslow’s Hierarchy

One reason why startup excites us is that in one go it satisfies each of these needs. A la how the MVP cuts across the value hierarchy and delivers a bit of each level.


While they may not pay a lot, the basic needs are covered. There is a strong sense of belongingness to the startup and each other. The awe and aura of being a entrepreneur boost the esteem. Finally, the opportunity to create a business, a brand, make difference is ultimate realisation of personal potential.


Startups represent that thin vertical slice across Maslow Hierarchy making it an MVP for it. That explains the fascination with it. This insight can be used by other orgs to create avenues for employees to have same experience with leaving to start a startup.


* There are bunch of criticism and changes to this theory. But this idea is applicable still 🙂

Five Buckets Model for Product Management


Inspired by The Five Competencies of User Experience Design by Steve Psomas,  ‘Five Buckets’ – Explained by Jonny Schneider and 5 Buckets of Business Analysis by Jiangmei Kang, I created a version for Product Management.

The 5 Buckets Model for Product Management

The Five Buckets is a model to describe the various capabilities of a Product Manager. This model list out important capabilities and suggests them to be competent in a subset of capabilities based on what their focus / interest is.

The 5 Capabilities of Product Managers (ProMa) identified are:

Five Buckets of Product Management


  • Rallying opinions around the Product value
  • Active listening
  • Evangelism
  • Articulation of value
  • Connect Business, Users, Techies and be their advocate in Product decisions
  • Establish common language
  • Fill the communication gap
  • Stakeholder engagement
  • Problem solving
  • Decision making
  • Conflicts resolution
  • Jedi Mind Tricks
  • Elevator pitches
  • Quips, anecdotes, story telling
  • Personal leadership
  • CxO level conversations


  • Take inputs from various sources and synthesize them into coherent vision
  • Build Product Strategy
  • Product Design, Innovation, User Research keeping inputs and behaviors in mind
  • Work with Business Analysts, Experience Designers, Developers, stakeholders, contributors, builders, consumers, etc.


  • Roadmapping
  • Track and Manage the Delivery Progress
  • Manage and Prioritize the Product Backlog

Business Acumen

  • Sustainability of the business based on the product
  • Business case for ideas/product/innovations/incremental innovations
  • Pricing
  • Market scoping
  • Market research
  • Market size
  • Market opportunity
  • Product – Organization fit
  • Product – Market fit

Domain Knowledge

  • Ramp up at needed pace to get sufficient Domain Knowledge
  • SME or strong Design background or strong Development background

Some Key Thoughts

  • As with other versions, everyone has the combination of two or more capabilities. Nobody can be expert in all five areas.
  • Influencing is a basic and key competency for ProMa to be effective.
  • Prioritization (roadmapping, tracking, etc) and Synthesis (gather inputs and make sense of conflicting demands) are key day to day activities of a ProMa guided by right Business Acumen (business value of anything that crosses them).
  • For situations where Domain Knowledge is important, being an SME helps. Else, as a Generalist, ramping up to have sufficient knowledge of domain works.

Speaker Deck

Thanks to fellow ThoughtWorkers Sachin Sapre, Nagarjun Kandukuru, Kartik Narayanan, Vijayalakshmi K R, Kshama Tikmani and Manish Kumar for the feedbacks at various stages.

Product Management in Context of Consulting

Product Management Context Consulting

This is how a fellow ThoughtWorker, Saurabh Goswami summarised my talk on Product Management (reusing so I do not have to think):

“Dinker Charak was up next with his very insightful commentary on Product Management in the Context of Consulting.

Linking concepts such as five buckets of product management and the importance of Sociology, he also wove in interesting anecdotes from his own experience as a product head and the balancing act that needed to be done between the product vision, team and the VC/promoter.”

I talked about the 5 Buckets of Product Management. I also talked about Product Thinking while introducing my ideas on a Product Manager being a Product Sociologist and a Product Psychologist. I ended the talk by talking about my personal experience of being a off-shore Product Manager.

Product Management in the Context of Consulting by Dinker Charak – on YouTube, on Speaker Deck and on SlideShare: