Seed, Soil, Tree: Nurturing Team Vision and Collaboration Through a Product Management Framework

An Organic Planning Model for Cultivating Exceptional Product Teams

seed soil tree

You’ve got an idea that’s going to take the market place by storm. You’ve got your bleeding edge team of designers and developers to help make this vision a reality. You’ve got your sales and marketing gurus ready to light up social media. So… what is the next step to bringing your vision to fruition again?

Do you start by simply building this revolutionary product? That’s certainly a possibility, but before you make that investment in time, money, and effort, have you stopped to consider who might be interested in buying your product? Oh. In that case, you should probably perform some user research studies to identify who you’re selling to and what they might expect. Are there similar products in the market already? Probably. That means you better do some competitive market research too.

Effective product managers understand that in order to successfully launch a product, there are a multitude of obvious and not-so obvious considerations that must be accounted for. How do you identify, organize and prioritize these considerations? Just as importantly, how do you communicate these insights across your team?

Enter the product management framework.

In simplest terms, a product management framework is a conceptual tool for generating, organizing and communicating big picture considerations within your product team.

But aren’t the silly acronyms and cute diagrams only useful for corporate consultants, MBA-types and ivory tower academics to put into their fancy presentations? Isn’t your team’s time better spent working on the actual product instead of some throwaway activity?

To be honest, I never thought there was any value in conceptual frameworks either until I stopped to actually think about what it takes to effectively lead a team as a product manager, and by corollary, why so many successful leaders and organizations have come to rely on these tools.

As the product manager, you are tasked with harnessing the talents and abilities of your team. Designers see a product in the terms of usability and aesthetics; software engineers might see it in terms of database tables, algorithm and code; and your sales team and business analysts are driven by customer trends and bottom line numbers. It’s your responsibility to synthesize the team’s collective wisdom and abilities in order to execute the all-important product roadmap. Successful product managers realize that before they can lead their team to the promised land, they better have a plan.

A product management framework is a tool that can help you conceptualize and communicate the big picture to your entire team.

A designer with a shared understanding of the market demands and the technical capabilities of the team is arguably more likely to come up with a winning design. Likewise, an engineer with a clear understanding of the mission objectives is better positioned to deliver the features and functionality you need to execute your moonshot. When sales and marketing are aligned with the product development teams, they can prepare a more effective go-to-market strategy.


Now that you recognize the potential affordances of a product management framework, which one do you choose?

How about the one I have developed, complete with silly acronyms encapsulated in a cute diagram (see Fig 1)!

Image removed.

Copyright 2019 Timothy Charoenying

SEED, SOIL, TREE is a holistic product management framework that draws on an organic growth metaphor of plants in nature to: characterize your team’s product concept; understand the competitive environment, and define the final product deliverable, respectively.

In the following sections, I’ll describe each organizing principle in turn.

SEED: Scope, Expertise, Execution, Design — a.k.a. the product concept.

All products begin with an idea that you develop and refine based on resource constraints and the capabilities of your team.


SEED: All products begin as an idea that you develop and refine based on resource constraints and the capabilities of your team.


How does your product work? What need does this product fill? (Or is there even a need?). Taking a step further beyond the product scope, consider the project scope — what is our expected project timeline and what resources do we have to realize our vision? Big ideas require more time to nurture and grow (think redwood trees). Simple products can be brought to market quickly but might not have staying power (think grasses and weeds).


What skills do our current team members bring to the table? Conversely, what skillsets are we missing, and who do we need to bring on board?


How do we turn our concept into a reality? What are the next day-to-day, week-to-week, month-to-month steps? What are key milestones and deliverables?


What’s the product going to look like, feel like? What is it going to do? What do you need for the Minimum-viable-product? When is your final product design “good enough”?

SOIL: Stakeholders, Opportunities, Innovations, Leaders — a.k.a. the competitive environment.

Good products aren’t launched in a vacuum. Is there a healthy and/or competitive market environment for your idea to take root in?


SOIL: Good products aren’t launched in a vacuum. Is there a healthy market environment for your product to take root in?


Who’s driving this project? Who are we developing this product for? What are investor expectations? What needs are consumers looking to satisfy?


What’s at stake here? How large is the market? What is our point of entry? What is the expected growth opportunity? Is this a crowded field?


What are we bringing to the table that’s unique? How does our product change the playing field? Are we doing something never done before?


Who are the key players in the marketplace? Who else is planning to enter the market? How do we differentiate our product from the competitor’s offerings?

TREE(s): Test, Revise, Evaluate, Evolve — a.k.a. the product deliverable.

You’ve finally got a product you can sell — how do you ensure it succeeds?


TREE: You’ve finally got a product you can sell — how do you ensure it succeeds?


The most important step is to get your product in front of real people. Product testing leads to improvements and refinement. Focus groups, A/B testing, pilot studies are examples of pre- and post-release strategies to test and determine the viability of a feature and/or product.


You’ve got the finished product — now it’s time to execute your go to market plan. You have one right? Of course you do, because your sales and marketing team has been in the communication loop and working lockstep with product development.


The product is for sale. Do you know how well it’s doing? Do you know what the buying public is responding to?


Things might be going well. Things might be doing poorly. In order to continue to survive and thrive you’re going to have to react to changing market conditions and demands. Your consumer’s tastes will evolve. Your product will need to evolve as well.


Bonus: A successful product launch can create new market opportunities. Is your team thinking about these and ready to capitalize?

Summary and Conclusion



SEED — The Product Concept/Idea
SOIL — The Competitive Environment
TREE(S) — The Product Deliverable(s)

In summary, I believe that a product management framework can be a powerful tool to guide your team throughout the product development cycle. It is not a set of steps and rules that must be rigidly followed. Instead, it is a holistic means for organizing and orienting your team from initial seed concept, to market analyses, and finally to the product launch and beyond.

Arguably, the most important function of a product manager is to facilitate communication between many different stakeholders who may not have the time, opportunity, or even a common language to otherwise effectively communicate with one another.

If co-constructing a product management framework can help communicate a shared sense of purpose and understanding across your team and improve your product’s likelihood for success, the question changes from why use a PM framework — to why not think about using this one!


Timothy Charoenying is a Software product manager with a background in UI/UX design, mobile application development, teaching and academic research. PhD, UC Berkeley. timothykc @ gmail

SuperFly Smash

Jump, spin, and twist to smash the robbers after your fruit!  The game play twist is you've got to physically move your whole body!!!

SuperFly flies through the air with you, literally. Game play is controlled by your real-world activity. Features boss battles, boomerangs, bombs, and more!

Give your child's whole body (and not just their thumbs...) a workout!

Created by the developer of Jump Jump Froggy, which was featured by CNN as a game to "get you moving."

We often assume that games are automatically motivating to students.

After all, we see them playing games in their free-time all the time, so it seems logical to conclude that if we make the learning into a game, the children will be more motivated to learn.

But consider this scenario: what if I asked you to run a race against an Olympic Sprinter--in front of all your friends and family?

How would you feel? Scared? Intimidated? Afraid of getting embarrased? 

After all, you and everyone present knows you are going to lose. 

And that's how many students feel when they are put in the situation of a competitive game where the criteria for victory is speed.

Say your teacher organizes a friendly flash-card contest to make learning multiplication more fun.

Then you are called out in front of all your peers and matched up against the kid who's fastest at times tables.

The game is motivating and empowering to the other kid, because it gives the other person a chance to shine and validate their sense of self.

For you on the other hand, the game is just another opportunity to feel bad about yourself.

As a former classroom teacher, I was a big proponent of using games to support mathematics learning. Games were inherently motivating for my students, and helped turn otherwise tedious tasks like memorizing the times tables into exciting competitions.

However, I noticed that not everyone enjoyed games involving competition. While my "top" students relished the opportunity to shine, the students I knew were struggling and whom I hoped the games would motivate--were nervous and anxious when we played.

Why was this I asked myself?

Well, think about it from the kids perspective. When you were a student, you knew exactly who the top students were and where you stood in the pecking order. Imagine you're asked by your teacher to run a race against Usain Bolt. You and everyone present know you're going to lose.

That's how my struggling students felt when I asked them to match their skills against the more advanced students. If the game involved speed of recall--think a flashcard competition--then the game was just another opportunity to feel bad about yourself.

Math Agent was purposefully designed to avoid this problem. Successful game play depends on both an individual's skill as well as luck of the draw. This means that struggling and advanced students can play with one another equitably. While the "better" player should still win most of the time, the "less advanced" player still has a chance to succeed (and just as importantly, the chance to participate constructively in a positive learning opportunity).




How To Play Against Friends (Guide)

There are two methods for playing with friends

Method 1 - Playing With Someone Nearby or on the same WIFI Network

Install on another iOS device. Note: Second player must be on the same WIFI Network or in range to receive Bluetooth signals

Tap on the name of the device that appears in the "Friends to Challenge" list
Tap on the name of the device that appears in the "Friends to Challenge" list


After the other player accepts the challenge, the game will automatically begin. 


Method 2 - Playing With Someone on Game Center

Multiplayer Button
Hit the Multiplayer Button


GameCenter Prompt
If you are not logged into Game Center, you will be prompted to open the configuration screen.
GameCenter Config
Use your apple ID to login, and then tap Math Agent in the top left corner to go back the game.


After logging into Game Center, hit the Multiplayer Button Again.

Game Center Interface
This opens the Game Center Interface. If you tap "PLAY NOW", the system will automatically pair you with another player somewhere in the world who wants to play at the same time. (If no one else is online, you will not be paired!)


If you choose to Invite Friends, you can send them a message with an invite (by text or email), or send invites to RECENT or NEARBY friends. The other player will receive a message, which, when tapped, will open the game and automatically start the battle for you both.

1.02 now has Multiplayer Game Center support!

Multiplayer support now available.

You can now invite and challenge friends to a Math Agent battle using the iOS Game Center! 

Simply login with your Apple ID (and create a Game Center name if you don't have one already). 

- Game Center support for multiplayer allows you to invite other iOS users anywhere in the world to play.
- Game Center Leaderboards. See how your skills compare to others.
- Info page for viewing all the different card types.


Math Agent

Improve mathematical fluency with this dynamic, socially engaging game. Challenge family and friends or the AI opponent to interactive duels to sharpen your skills. MATH AGENT combines academic standards-based mathematical concepts and operations with easy to learn strategic game play to make math learning F-U-N!

- Multiply two numbers to create an attack!
- Defend that attack with a shield based on the perimeter of a hexagon!
- Create an unstoppable attack using prime numbers!

First developed as a trading card game by a University of California, Berkeley PhD in mathematics education while teaching in the New York City public school system, MATH AGENT has helped students coast to coast build comfort and fluency through positive playful activities that address both standard learning requirements and goals, and the social and developmental interests of the learner.

Available for the first time as an App. Download MATH AGENT today and play your way to a more mathematically compelling tomorrow.

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