Product managers are a curious bunch. It is what makes us so good at our jobs. I suppose it is an indispensable skill for most jobs, really. But product managers are insatiably demanding when it comes to learning what is new.
You do it with purpose because the success of your product depends on it. You need accurate, up-to-date information to build something great. So, you ask, ask, ask — until you get to the essence.
Because what happens when you are not curious and do not keep digging? The three Cs — confusion, conflict, and chaos.
If you are reading this, then I can bet you care deeply about your product and want to make the best decisions for it. You do not want those terrible three Cs to impact your team or your plans. And you definitely do not want them to define how you work.
You do not want to find that the team is working towards the wrong goals. Outdated information skewers the plan and all that progress you made is buried as you re-do work. Misunderstand what a customer is really asking for and it sends people sideways. Or a last-minute go-to-market mistake that sets everyone into a scrambling frenzy.
On the surface, the fix is simple — talk frequently with key stakeholders from sales, marketing, engineering, and support.
But you need to ask the right questions. You need to find out how your product strategy is being received, how work is progressing, and how people feel about it. Frequent and inquisitive conversations keep people engaged and accountable to the team — while also giving you insight on who needs help at any given time.
Here are six questions you should ask the product team each week. We have organized them into what we call the three Ps — progress, plans, problems:
What did we accomplish last week?
Take stock of what you achieved. Reflect on the previous week and examine the high-priority items that were addressed. Then, make the necessary adjustments so important work gets done this week too.
What did we learn?
Different teams have different interactions with your customers, and therefore, distinct insights into the market. Gather all these learnings together and track with some frequency. Then you can spot patterns that might affect your short- and long-term progress.
What are your goals for the upcoming week?
Review your product goals or initiatives each week and see if those align with what people are working on. You might find that people are toiling away on insignificant to-dos. It is your job to shift the team’s attention to the highest-priority items.
What do we do if “X” happens?
The “X” could be the most likely problem — the one you need a specific contingency plan for. But it can also be open-ended for an unforeseen circumstance where you will want to know who to involve, how to contact them, and who has decision-making power for what.
Maybe you or somebody on the team learned about an existing or potential roadblock — for example, a potential bug or negative feedback from a customer. Talk through how this could affect the plans for the next release. And revisit the go-to-market to minimize impact on cross-functional teams when it is time to launch.
Where do you need help?
Framing the question this way nudges the team to think through solutions. It can also help you remove obstacles. For example, maybe engineering is waiting on a UI decision or a designer is waiting on a line of copy in order to complete a mockup.
As a product manager, you need to lead the team with regular and pointed conversations. Use your natural curiosity to your advantage.
This is not a task you can shy away from. You need to make it a regular part of your routine so your teammates expect it from you each week. Even every day.
No, this will not make you a pest. It will make you and the team stronger — relentless in your pursuit of achieving your best. And your team and your customers will love you for being so invested in their success.
What questions do you ask the team every week?
We love you already. But you might need more time. How about 30 days, free?