With over twelve years of experience in training product managers, one question keeps repeating itself and never loses its relevance: What are the key aspects of product management an inexperienced product manager must get acquainted with?
While it may seem like a simple question with a simple answer, whenever we face it we pause. Product management is so contextual and depends on so many parameters – the product’s lifecycle stage, the target markets and the nature of the organization being only a small portion of the list – that it seems pretentious to come up with an agenda that fits all product managers. Having said that, while we cannot predict the kind of product and environment you will face, we do believe there are KEY HABITS that every young product manager should embrace. These should make your life a lot easier:
1. Ask “Why?”
“Why” is a simple question instrumental for understanding both the big picture and its details. Product managers, especially inexperienced ones, can get lost in the details and lose sight of the reasons they do what they do. Asking “Why” allows us to take a step back and get some perspective.
We encourage product managers to take that step back and ask “why?” on every possible occasion: during customer interactions, while discussing the product with peers and co-workers and at times, with themselves.
2. Set Goals and Measure
In our daily work, we take countless product decisions. One of our main responsibilities is to prioritize. Prioritizing should always be based on value, effort, and risk. It depends on so many factors and uncertainties that using goals is essential. Goals help us guide ourselves in the path of product management and keep us in the right direction.
Use OKR’s, KPI’s or any other method that works for you, as long as you measure the results and work toward achieving your goals.
3. Never Lose Sight of the Customer’s Value
As a product manager, the primary goal of your product is to provide value to your customers and monetize that value. While it may seem trivial to experienced product managers, understanding the true value our product provides to the customer can be challenging for new ones. Even more challenging is to follow through on that insight.
Product managers should evaluate everything they do in the context of customer value and ask themselves if it helps providing that value.
4. Know It’s OK to Say “NO”
The product management role requires us to manage without authority. At times, this can lead to conflicts and disagreements with our peers. Young product managers tend to avoid conflicts and agree to requests that are not in their product’s best interest.
Product managers should know that not all requirements, even those of high-profile salespeople or important customers, are relevant. The ability to say “No” is just as important in driving your product in the right direction as saying “Yes”.
5. Mistakes are Inevitable. Learn from Them
Being a product manager of tech-powered products means dealing with uncertainties in a changing environment. Part of your job description is taking difficult decisions based on limited, and at times, insufficient data. This means that at some point you will make mistakes, no doubt about it.
Don’t be afraid of making mistakes; however, make sure to minimize their effect by applying Lean Product Methodologies, and learn from those mistakes to avoid them in the future.
6. Remember: You Are Not Alone
Product management is a group effort! It should be done in cooperation with all the product’s stakeholders. These stakeholders have the same interest in the success of the product as yours. It is your responsibility to map these product groups and understand their dynamics to use them to make better-informed decisions.
We recommend mapping four groups that will help you deal with your challenges: product squad, market reference, technical group, and the product key business stakeholders.