I’ve written a few blogs about what makes a successful Product Manager, best practices and thought leadership from various product professionals in the industry. Today, I want to share my views on top 7 things to avoid as a Product Manager.
- Don’t forget to define the end destination. One of the key roles as a Product Manager is to define the product strategy for your product ie. vision and the goals. This sets the focal point for your delivery team that guides them to make the right decisions in building the right thing. Often as Product Managers, we are too busy caught up in the day to day delivery that we forget about or simply don’t have the time to work on the strategy. Sometimes you need to go slow to run faster. If you are currently running without a destination, my advice is don’t be afraid to take a step back, pause and start formulating the strategy. The vision needs to articulate what the product aspires to be and why. Establish measurable goals that are ambitious yet attainable. Once done, evangelise your product strategy across the business starting from your own team.
- Don’t confuse yourself as the customer. As Product Managers, we are often very passionate about the products we are building. We want to make our products great and “put” ourselves in the customers shoes. This is totally fine for building customer empathy, but sometimes it can lead to us to “think” on behalf of the customer and believe that we know what the customer problems are without proper validation. We start to make biased decisions, which can quickly turn into building a product that you want, not the customer. Things that have worked for me to avoid this is leaning into the data to make informed data driven decisions and hypothesis experimentation ie. formulating hypothesis on what we think the problem and potential solution is and validating with experiments.
- Don’t assume that the products customers love will always be profitable. Yes in theory, most customers are willing to pay for the products they love using. But I don’t think this is always true. If the product doesn’t have a sound business model, even if lots of customers are using the product, it will not be profitable. You, as the Product Manager, need to think about a business model early on to ensure the:
- Product is sellable ie. right pricing and distribution strategy is in place
- Product economics makes sense ie. cost to build and maintain is lower than your revenue
- Product is scalable ie. your business model is set up for economies of scale
- Don’t think that you need to come up with all the answers. Product Managers need to be able to guide the team to focus on the key problems solve. You are not responsible for coming up with new feature ideas, what the user experience should be or what the technical solution should look like. Instead, you need to facilitate getting the right people to collaborate at the right time. Great Product Managers also know to provide feedback at the right time during the product development process where they add the most value. No one expects you to have all the answers and you shouldn’t have to. I believe knowing how to empower team to come up with the right solutions and guiding them to make the best decision is crucial as Product Managers.
- Don’t focus on the solution, focus on the problem. Instinctively Product Managers want to solve problems and we can quickly jump into solution mode. This is dangerous as without a clear understanding of the problem space, it’s very easy to go down into a rabbit hole where you end up building a product that has no real customer value. Sometimes we need to take a step back to get out of the tunnel vision and see the bigger picture. When we have a holistic view of the customer needs, we may find the initial problem we were solving on is the wrong problem to be focusing on, or is a symptom of a much bigger problem that needs to be addressed first.
- Don’t communicate features, communicate the benefits. Product Managers who are deeply emerged in the product delivery may focus too much on the feature details eg. how it works, how it’s built and when it will be shipped, and inadvertently forget about the benefits they are delivering to customers. Many product roadmaps we develop is a list of prioritised features, which makes it easy for us to talk about feature delivery, rather than customer benefits. I’ve seen websites, release notes, customer emails that talk about amazing feature launches but fail to mention why and how these features help customers. Remember, customers don’t care about features, they want us to solve their needs.
- Don’t just prioritise whatever requests that is the loudest and most passionate. I’ve seen this happen in many companies where the product team succumb to feature requests that seem most important based on noise and without proper assessment. Product Managers need a sound product strategy that can guide the prioritisation process. The product roadmap defines a path to achieving the product vision and “should” generally only contain roadmap items that are in line with your strategy. When you have a framework to prioritise the roadmap items, it will help you to filter out noise and say “no” to stakeholders.
Have you ever been trapped in any of these pitfalls? I have for sure but I’ve learnt through the mistakes and ultimately these experiences have made me a better product manager. I am sharing my learnings with fellow Product Managers as I hope it will help some of you out there to better navigate through product management.