Part of an ongoing piece of research conducted by Tarigo into Product Management teams to identify what drives product success and how high performing teams operate, and how to coach your team towards Building Product Management Excellence
Capability One – Stop firefighting & start strategising
Great product management teams know that there are two critical aspects to their role; they need to take care of business today whilst at the same time making sure they don’t lose sight of the long game. This is a real dilemma – huge pressure is put on short term success and results, but they know that if they forget to look forward then all of that short term success will be for nothing as their products and services become outdated in the market. Think Blockbuster – a video/dvd rental chain that focused on today at the cost of tomorrow. They paid a heavy price as the online content revolution swept over them and made them irrelevant to the customers they’d tried so hard to serve.
The key to managing the strategic effort of product management is to ensure some of their metrics and objectives are further out and your interactions with them show and interest and value in long term thinking.
This could mean:
- Set the team a clear objective to deliver a five year vision to you. Keep this vision visible (on a team wall, for example) and use it as a reference point when discussing plans (“how does this idea fit with our long term vision?”)
- Coach on urgent vs important. A product plan is important, hardly ever urgent. For some, that means it never gets done (‘urgent’ meeting after meeting takes away time to do the important stuff). Coach the team on what we want to achieve this year, the important tasks to make that happen and diary management to make it happen (for example, focus on important tasks for the first hour every morning. Don’t look at email or answer the phone in that hour)
- Be aware of your teams comfort zone – most product managers find parts of the job easy and tend to stay there, ex developers spending too much time with technology, ex salespeople avoiding technical requirements definition, etc. Set objectives that challenge their comfort zone (e.g. for the ex-developer this mean setting a quarterly customer visit target)
- Take advantage of technology. One product manager can be much more effective if they build short videos for the global sales team to watch – a better use of time and money than jumping on another flight to give the same presentation again!
- Block some time in each product managers diary and challenge them to use it for visionary thinking. Each quarter, every team member should be able to give a five minute presentation “Trends and ideas in my markets” with loads of insights and anecdotes to show depth and clarity to their vision
- Regularly test team strategy. Rather than simply ask “what’s keeping you busy this week” add a strategy test too “What new insights do you have from your market”,
“Give me a two minute refresher on your product vision”, “What trends do you see impacting your market in a five year window”. Product Managers should anticipate that a conversation with their manager is likely to not just look at what they’re doing to take care of business today, but also look at how they are taking care of the future.