#mustread … The best companies are most often built by extraordinary product minds. Even if you’re not a PM right now, you can benefit from adopting the habits and strategies that make talented PMs successful.
Absolute must read
1. Getting into the PM Mindset
A good PM fills in the gaps and gets out of the way.
Prioritization becomes critical.
Significance = Magnitude x Number of People Impacted
where magnitude is a measure of how frustrating/painful/unbearable the problem being solved is.
A magnitude 1 problem might cause mild annoyance, whereas a magnitude 3 problem might cause show-stopping frustration and anger.
Continually question whether the tactic you’re trying creates more friction than the original problem. If the answer is yes, immediately shift course.
2. Figuring Out When to Build What
-Time-Based Risk: when a competitor has launched a new version of its product that its customers don’t like as much, that would give you a time-window.
-Building Blocks First: the other follow-up question you should always ask is “How many other projects depend on this thing?”
3. Turning Product Vision into an Executable Strategy
-Structure your vision wisely.
-Create 2-3 objectives that move you toward that vision.
-Place bets under each objective.
Following this template, you end up with a quarterly roadmap that has every action and each person’s work closely connected with the company’s direction and purpose.
4. Effective Stakeholder Communication
Group 1: Executives and leadership
-Send presentations, decks and other materials before every meeting.
-Validate every decision with data.
-Be specific about the executives’ desired participation.
-Take notes and close the loop.
-Send high-level updates right after each meeting with action items.
-Go into too much detail.
-Surprise anyone with bad news. If the news is bad, reach out to folks 1:1 in advance.
-Show up unprepared.
-Ignore room dynamics.
Group 2: Your own team
-Leverage efficient daily stand-ups.
-Review strategy/roadmaps regularly.
-Record and send out notes on key decisions and actions.
-Reward team members often, tell anecdotes about customer pain points that were alleviated.
-Make decisions without engineering and design.
-Send action items/requests without talking about them first, 1:1 or stand-up.
-Forget to update folks on roadmap or specs changes, particularly important after meeting with execs.
Group 3: Internal and external partners
-Exhibit detailed understanding of their work and domain.
-Use the right format at the right time with the right audience.
-Leverage your teammates. Bring in engineering leads.
-Gently and continuously educate them. Partners sometimes don’t know the consequences of their actions.
-Build relationships outside of work meetings.
-Create transparency. Don’t rely on others to communicate to everyone.
-Forget who to loop in at what stage.
-Make stakeholders feel ignored.
-Forget you have more insight than anyone else. Stakeholders don’t see your roadmap.
-Allow meetings to end without clarity.
-Forget to educate about timelines and tradeoffs.
Group 4: Customers
-Always start with the user problem. Ask why and understand the journey that creates that pain point.
-Keep, what’s important to them, top of mind.
-Treat email copy as a part of the product experience.
-Generate empathy for yourself by reading through user feedback, attending user studies in person…
-Leave product communications/messaging to the last minute. *Start with this, don’t end with it.
-Assume marketing will position the product themselves.
-Leave customer success in the dark about launch.
-Believe internal products require no roll out.
5. Create Compelling Product Messaging
Start with one question:
What superpower do you want to give your user? For example, the iPhone lets us navigate to unknown places wherever we are in the world. As a PM, it’s your job to ensure the entire team knows the story you’re trying to create for your users. *This should come first in your development process, not last.
Will Carlin’s 5 C’s framework comes in hand for telling strong stories (your goal should be to craft a story around a single user — not a group of users).
-Context: Establish the setting and identity of the user you’re talking to.
-Conflict: The problem your product attempts to solve for that user.
-Conflict Escalation: Really visualize what it’s like for a user to encounter this problem. Draw out the emotions tied to the pain point and solutions that have been tried but failed. Really feel and describe the frustration, disappointment, etc.
-Climax: Your product is introduced — what changes for the user?
-Conclusion: Detailed description of the improvement in the user’s life.
Use this framework to create a story about your product. Remember, no matter what you do, different versions of your story will emerge once it launches. To win, craft the story that is closest and most personal to your user. The more emotionally resonant it is, the more it will drown out competing perspectives.
6. Build Your Best Product Team
You have to hire people who aren’t just talented, but who are perfect for your particular business.
Develop a strategic hiring plan by determining who on your existing team should be a part of the hiring process (all relevant folks the role will interface with), and the concrete steps every candidate will take between application and hire.
-Build a strategic hiring plan.
-Define key competencies
-Standardize your assessment of competencies.
Running this exercise is time intensive. You have to run several voting rounds to arrive at competencies, questions for each competence, and then the best and worst responses to each question. Sounds like a lot, but it’s incredibly worth it to have a standardized approach created collaboratively — one that can be recycled and reused again and again as hiring picks up pace.
7. Scale Yourself as a Product Leader
PMs should focus on scaling in four areas: decision making, velocity, collaboration and empowerment.
Decision making starts to slow down and crack at a certain point of growth. The warning sign is too many cooks in the kitchen and slowed pace. The antidote is the DACI framework:
-Driver: The one person responsible for the project who drives process and keeps everyone aligned.
-Approver: The person who approves the proposal/recommendation for the project.
-Contributors: People working on the project team, providing input, producing work, etc.
-Informed: People kept in the loop about the project and results, but not contributing.
Velocity of work starts to slow down as tech debt accumulates and teams grow. To fix it, create durable teams around durable problems. To avoid scope creep and last-minute design changes, Chang recommends the following product development process:
-Goal definition: Everyone included in your DACI framework should come together and emerge with a singular goal for the product.
-Product definition: Align on scope of the project and what will be required to solve the problem at hand. What is and isn’t out of scope?
-Design review: Be explicit about the type of feedback you want and don’t want.
-Tech review: Make sure everyone has a chance to debate and buy into the technical approach.
-Go/no-go: Review your checklist to make sure the rest of the org is operationally ready for a product/project launch — i.e. customer service has the bandwidth to answer questions, etc.
Collaboration starts to break at a certain company size. Free people up and fuel effective collaboration with these three moves:
–Make your product roadmap and product docs accessible to the entire company.
–Hold Gate Meetings to force decisions that must be made to proceed.
–Send decision emails to communicate to all possible stakeholders when big decisions have been made and why.
Empowerment at scale becomes important when teams get so big that people feel like they’re just executing on other people’s orders. Several strategies to combat this are:
–Present options instead of a firm decision.
–Start milestone meetings with a background share.
8. Drive Product Development with Data
PMs use data to align stakeholders with roadmaps, track efficacy of what’s been built, and prioritize what to build next.
-You have to gather implicit data. Stop making excuses. If you don’t, you’ll have no real visibility into how users will react to new features. These can be little experiments, like seeing if someone will click on a link.
-Don’t underestimate the importance of explicit data. Protect yourself against this by taking in qualitative feedback shared directly by your users.
-Always go to your customers when you observe them. see how people are using your product in their natural habitat. If they’ve developed any workarounds, take special note.
-Find the right users for your questions. At B2B companies, product managers often find themselves engaging with the C-suite at their customers. Determine who is the most relevant user of your product, and pose the questions to them directly.
–Find a meaningful metric for your performance. Net Promoter Score is a common choice, but that’s not universally appropriate. You could augment it with a Customer Effort Score —a measure of whether the company made it easier to perform certain tasks.
9. Going from PM to Founder
In many ways, product management is the ideal springboard for founders. It’s a position that affords you opportunities to go deep in areas that will serve you when running your own business, like:
-P&L and forecasting
But before you can get into all of that, you need to be sure you’re choosing the right idea to work on.
How do you know if an idea is worth pursuing? Evaluate each one according to Marty Cagan’s Four Big Risks:
-Value: Do people want this? When you talk to prospective users, do they see value in what you’re building?
-Usability: Can people figure your solution or product out intuitively?
-Feasibility: Can you and an eventual team build what you have in mind within a realistic time frame with the resources you can realistically get?
-Viability: Is there a clear business model and path to making money?
Before you set out after an idea, make sure you can check each of these boxes and confidently explain your answers to each of these questions to possible investors.