Why does Product Management function exists?
Organizations are driven by 2 entities,
One which is focussing on DEFINING THE GOAL
The functions involved in Defining the goals are “Customer facing”. They are also on the ground listening to customer’s needs and concerns.
Typically Sales and business development teams are involved in bringing the customers in the organizations.
Then there are subject matter experts, the executive leaders who are building the relation with customers and offering them the products and solutions.
While other entities like Finance, Legal and Compliance take care of the budgeting, P&L, Clarifying the regional and global government rules.
The other one, which is focusing on EXECUTING THE GOAL
In the technology industry, there will be a technology team that will ensure the goal is executed as per the plan and this function ensures the DELIVERY is made.
There are other functions which support the technology teams like operations and customer support to ensure product/solutions which are delivered to the customer is monitored, maintained and supported.
So the question is, in this setup where does Product Management function fit?
Simply saying, Think of Product Management function as a bridge between these 2 entities which will ensure Defined Goal is Executed in line with the customer’s expectations.
Now the question is why do we need a bridge and why can’t these entities communicate and coordinate with each other to get things done!
Well, both these entities have specific objectives,
- To increase the sales, to build more partners and engagement leading to expanded business.
- To be created in solutions which is aligned with the latest technologies and architectural guidelines.
One critical objective missing, in this case, is about Customer and Products
Organizations need one dedicated function whose main job would be to focus on “Identifying the Customer”, “Anticipating the Customer Need/Desires” and “Satisfying the delighting the customer with great Product”. And that’s why Product Management function exists.
#1 Become comfortable with Uncertainty and Ambiguities
People want to start their own business or become financially independent. But you don’t end up a successful entrepreneur unless you find a way to love the risk, the uncertainty, the repeated failures, and working insane hours on something you have no idea whether will be successful or not.
Mark Manson- self-help author, personal development consultant, entrepreneur, and blogger
There are very less chances that a solution or product which needs to be built, which is completely clear from both business and technology end.
Product managers need to constantly try to get clarity on the ambiguous goals. here’s some of the ways to handle such situations:
- This may involve multiple discussions with business or with customers or with technology teams.
- You must capture the minutes of the meeting for each of these discussions with next steps or action items defined with the owner mentioned in it.
- Finally, keep following up on these on 1 and 2
Key here for a Product Manager is not to come up with a solution on your own but ask tough and right questions to all the concerned stakeholders which could help get the clarity on the unknowns.
#2 Be the leader in driving /facilitating communication
There are two ways of being creative. One can sing and dance. Or one can create an environment in which singers and dancers flourish.
Warren Bennis — American scholar, organizational consultant and author, widely regarded as a pioneer of the contemporary field of Leadership studies.
Here are some of the ways to build this skill:
- Prepare yourself first before entering into the meeting with the list of objectives you want to achieve
- Allow everyone to speak and present their point of view
- Be genuinely interested in the conversation and be curious
- Finally, don’t hesitate to ask obvious and silly questions. You never know what could come up after you ask this!!!
Don’t wait for someone to take the lead in driving the discussion. Especially in cases when things are unclear, Key here is for Product Manager to bring the right people together and driving the discussion in such a way that would result in a possible solution.
#3 Clarity of thinking — practice Critical Thinking
“The No1 think we look for is general cognitive ability, and it’s not IQ. It’s learning ability. It’s the ability to process on the fly”
Lazlo Bock, Senior Vice President of People Operations at Google [Source]
Most often whenever Product Managers get some problems to solve they immediately start thinking about the solution. Critical Thinkers first understand the question itself. They examine analytically and try to understand why this is a problem!!
Here are some of the ways to build critical thinking skill:
- Gather data and analyze the data about the problem.
- Prepare a set of thoughtful questions and discuss with relevant stakeholders.
- Collaborate, listen and understand the reasoning from all.
- Refine, Analyse the facts and DEFINE the problem.
Before responding to customers, Teams or any other internal stakeholders “Stop and Think”. Don’t be in a hurry to respond but your goal is to understand the different thought processes.
Convince yourself first before convincing others. Have clarity in your approach of response. Remember your ultimate goal is to deliver the best solution/product to the customer.
#4 Ask “Why” all the time
People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it. And what you do simply proves what you believe.
Simon Sinek — British-American author, motivational speaker and organizational consultant.
One other way of getting the clarity of thinking is to ask “Why”. Learn the motivation behind the business use case. Ask Why again until you are fully satisfied and convinced.
This is sometimes tough especially in cases when you are communicating with executive leadership. In any situation, always remember if the Product Manager doesn’t have a clear picture then it might lead to the wrong message to many other stakeholders who are only in discussions with the Product manager.
#5 Become the user of your own product
“It’s really hard to design products by focus groups. A lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.” -Steve Jobs
This does not mean you start testing end to end of your product. What this means is to think of yourself as a consumer and go through the process of using the product.
This can help a Product Manager experience the pain points that a potential user may face and at the same time this can help build your credibility in front of a team and other stakeholders.
When you have experienced the product, you will have more confidence in talking to the customer.
#6 Be comfortable with taking questions on your Ideas
“Being a good leader requires remembering that you’re there for a reason, and the reason certainly isn’t to have your way. High-integrity leaders not only welcome questioning and criticism — they insist on it.”
Travis Bradberry — Co-author EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE 2.0 & President at TalentSmart
This is the most important skill. A Product Manager will have to talk to multiple people and everyone can come up with their own thoughts and can challenge you and your product on the usability or any other aspects.
Learn to handle such situations, you need to understand what are valid concerns/questions and what are some things that you can ignore.
Important is to not get too defensive while responding to the questions. Be comfortable in handling the questions.
Simple way is to prioritize and move ahead!!