Most product managers I know are optimistic realists. I am both — a former product manager and an optimistic realist. So call me biased. You could say it is their nature, but I think it comes from the job. Product managers plan thoroughly and vigorously for a future that is better than today. But getting there requires a certain confidence.
Product roadmapping requires a positive view of the future paired with a critical eye on the present.
You worked hard these past months to build a 2018 roadmap that is ambitious and achievable. To make this year great, you now need to help the team execute against that perfect plan. In other words, it is time to go get busy!
I recently wrote about what we at Aha! see as the future of product management, including the concept of “strategy + execution = winning.” The idea is that the companies that clearly link strategy (the roadmap) and execution (the day-to-day work) together are able to do two things well. First, ensure the business is building what matters most to customers. Second, that they are able to make efficient use of resources.
Product managers are the ones who are trained to do this. You are the pioneers of the strategy and the leaders of the cross-functional work that will build something of value. And this means you will be busier than ever.
Here are four things you can do to put your 2018 plan into action starting today:
Everything you work on should be connected to a goal. If it is not, then why are you working on it? Stay true to the strategic roadmap that you worked so hard to define — despite all of the distractions and arguments to change course. If you need to change course, change your assumptions and strategy first.
As a product manager, you are not just at the center of the action — you are the center. Use that uniquely cross-functional position and viewpoint. Proactively collaborate with teammates to understand how the strategy impacts them. Be transparent and share data that backs up your plans. Tap the team’s knowledge of customers, partners, users, and the market to help you make sure you are considering everything from every angle.
Be the details
Product managers are responsible for leading the cross-functional team to follow through on the specifics of the plan. This is how you can deliver a Complete Product Experience (CPE). You need to analyze and understand every single customer touchpoint to ensure your product will achieve that CPE. Take steps to deepen your understanding. For example, set a goal to sit in on one sales or support call per week.
You defined what success will look like and the metrics you will track to measure it. But while you can plan all you want, you also need data to understand if the work is actually delivering against your goals. Is that new feature being used the way you expected? Did creating a new module increase sales like you expected? Even if your strategy was clear and the team worked hard to deliver what you defined, you are responsible for being accountable and honest when you are off track.
Product managers are not afraid of hard work. The best ones are meticulous, resolute, and purposeful in their approach.
Product managers also have a thorough understanding of the present and an inspiring vision of the future. The company looks to you to be great and to create greatness. Start with deep strategic thinking and then organize the team and work to create value.
With the right plan in place and the determination to work hard to achieve it — how could you not be optimistic?
What advice do you have for ambitious product managers?