Product In 2020
A collection of thoughts on Product Management.
First, I cannot believe that this is only my second article of the year. Then again, no one saw 2020 going the way it did, so here we are.
As usual, the end of the year for most people, myself included, gives rise to a period of reflection. While nothing inherently magical may lie at the end of a year or indeed the start of a new one, as with the end of a Sprint or any other fixed length of time, it’s the perfect opportunity to conduct some evaluation.
So, if you took the leap recently and decided to transition to Product Management or are already a PM, here are a couple of my personal reflections that you may find useful.
1. Lean into lean: Your MVP has an MVP. No matter how lean you believe you’re already thinking, you can always go leaner. As easy as this sounds it requires more discipline than we usually imagine.
2. Grow beyond the Backlog: One of the easier parts of Product Management is administering the backlog. Everything that happens before (discovery) and after (customer support) is where the real (hard work) lies. This doesn’t in any way diminish the work of delivery, but it’s easy to get stuck focusing on the process of shipping. Shipping is always a means to an end and never the end itself.
3. Increase Collaboration: No matter how frequently you think you’re collaborating you can always collaborate more and better. From designers to PMs, to PMs to Engineers and PMs to PMs — there’s a lot of value that can be tapped from seeking alternate perspectives.
4. Speak to Customers: Sometimes, there are good proxies. At other times there aren’t. Either way, get as close as possible to the customer as you can. Nothing substitutes your users as well as — well, your users themselves.
5. Negotiate better: negotiating is a huge part of the work you’ll do. Be it negotiating with engineers or internal and external stakeholders. You have to learn to negotiate effectively. Negotiating isn’t about having your way. It is about knowing what is important across the board and ensuring the right level of compromise is achieved. This means being in tune with your stakeholders’ needs as well as having a solid grasp of the resources available to you.
6. Make time for Learning: I get it, we’re all busy and there are a thousand and one things we should be doing right now. But it is important to treat this as a priority and not an after-thought, something to squeeze into at the end of the day. Read articles, books, listen to podcasts. There’s a wealth of knowledge from the collective body of product management and other fields that can readily be tapped to improve your individual craft. This also requires a lot of discipline.
7. Always put in the work: Finally, always put in the work. Going over and beyond is always noticeable. A little bit of research before a pitch call, a few extra minutes preparing for a training session. Whatever you do ensure you do not coast. Put in the work to become really great.
None of these in themselves are novel truths and while every good product person should know them it’s important to remember them from time to time.
I hope these prove useful for you in the new year.