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…
Sometimes your gut instinct is wrong. I discovered this a number of years ago after launching a new product. A strange phenomenon was happening. The more support interactions a customer had, the more likely they were to keep using the product. Wait — what? The more problems customers had, the longer they stayed with us?
Who is the most misunderstood in technology? I would say it is the person who plans what will be built next. This person — often called the product manager — is a puzzler to many. Just consider how many different job titles are used for people who do the work of product management: product manager, product owner, business analyst, and even program or project manager sometimes. To keep it simple — let’s refer to these folks as product managers.
It is one thing to write down your thoughts in a private journal. It is quite another to publish those thoughts for everyone to read. You need to have a strong conviction to share what you have learned. That is why I started writing on the Aha! blog — to share my views about building great products and companies with others who are trying to do the same.
Does it ever feel like there is just too much information coming your way? You are not the only one who is exhausted. The whole team is drowning — chasing down customer requests, navigating conflicting executive decrees, and trying to prioritize which colleague to respond to first. It is no wonder the mental exhaustion seems contagious. This overcommitted and overloaded state is not sustainable. But the solution might surprise you.