There are certain phrases that make a product manager cringe. For me, it is when customers refer to the process of submitting feedback as throwing ideas into a “black hole.” Ouch. I never want a customer to feel this way. This is one reason why our team at Aha! created a new goal this year: zero unreviewed customer ideas. Seriously.
I was looking for some inspiration. This was back in October 2016 and we were in planning mode. Our product teams at WhiteHat Security had spent most of the year struggling to stay true to one annual roadmap. But as we looked back, it was clear that what we had said we would do and what we were delivering simply were not the same. Why?
I have some bad news. And it will not be surprising for most product managers. Our job frequently involves telling people things they do not want to hear. In fact, I would say the job of a product manager involves more difficult conversations than most. Even communicating what some would consider very bad news.
“What is the difference between a product manager and a …?” You can fill in the rest of that question with more than a half dozen job titles — engineering manager, scrum master, project manager, business analyst, and more. Lots of aspiring product managers want to know the answer to these questions. It makes sense that people are curious about the overlap between different job titles. Why?
It was my first week as a new product manager. There were already a ton of feature requests coming in from different teams. Most were partially defined and very few were prioritized. I was drowning in requests. There was also a pile of customer ideas that needed review, release timelines to plan, the list went on. Where to start?
Imagine that your job is to sell pencils. Number 2 pencils, to be specific. Your sales pitch is basic. “Classic wooden pencils! You can sharpen, write, and erase!” There is not much else to say. Sure, there is beauty in the pencil’s simplicity and utility, but some days it is a struggle to get excited about moving those units.
Public speaking. I have learned to really enjoy it and consider it an honor. I have done a lot of it over the last ten years. Although I do understand the anxiety some people feel looking at all those expectant faces. The nervous jitters or pressure to put on a show. But the audience is not that scary. They are just people like us. No, there is something else you should be afraid of that is related to presentations — it might surprise you at first.
“I cannot believe it is almost 2018.” You will be hearing this from your family and friends pretty soon. But if you are a product manager you can believe it. This is because you have been in 2018 planning (hopefully) for weeks now — already making plans for next year.
I want to talk about a recurring meeting. You know, the one that makes you cringe. It pops up on your calendar and makes you wish you could quietly hit “decline.” Many years ago, I often had these meetings. Unfortunately, little was accomplished except an invite to the next one to discuss the same topic all over again. But there was one type that was worse than the others — the ongoing product backlog grooming session. Read more…
There is a plague infiltrating your office. Sales? Already infected. Most of the other teams are sick now too. The symptoms make people act lifeless — paranoid thinking and nonsensical talk. You might even hear folks muttering, “We are behind.”
Running around in circles. This is not an uncommon feeling for product managers. You have so many items on your To-do list and so many meetings to attend. You are doing important work — but it seems like you never have the time to stop and reflect on it. So let’s take a moment and stop.
I spent an hour driving three miles. Welcome to Los Angeles — that was my commute. I was working as a product manager at an e-commerce company on the west side. Some call the area “Silicon Beach.” Most days it felt more like “Silicon Gridlock.” But there was something that eased the frustration.
“There has got to be a better way.” This was my inner monologue as a product manager. I found myself creating the same reports again and again. I would spend late nights in the office, painstakingly updating the same spreadsheets and tracking down outdated versions. It was frustrating and incredibly time-consuming. Read more…