Google “Product Manager”, and you’ll find a million and one articles on how to go about product management.
Well, for me, it wasn’t. Having taken on the title only over a month ago, I felt overwhelmed by this crazy amount of information every time I tried to better understand my role. I’d then think – “This is too much. I’ll save it for some other time when I have a good couple of hours off work.” As the stories of all procrastinators go, that time did not present itself for quite some time.
It did finally come. And it wasn’t in some magical “I have to get off my lazy butt” realization or some spiritual motivation. No, it came in the form of a simple, yet convincing, book – 42 Rules of Product Management by Brian Lawley and Greg Cohen.
Having finally read the book cover-to-cover, and written down detailed notes on the same, I thought I’d share what I consider are the top 5 rules an aspiring Product Manager should keep in mind from Day One.
- Great execution trumps a great product idea.Take a look at the market leaders in most categories today, and you’ll notice one fact that is common among them all – their idea or their products are not particularly unique. Sure, they have a few features that set their products apart from those of their competitors, yet they are nothing so great that you’ll be instantly sold on them. So, how did they make it all the way to the top? Simply put, superb execution.
Having taken on the key role of Product Manager, it is your responsibility to ensure that most of the company time is spent on execution rather than planning and strategizing. Execute your plans, and if you fail, it’s okay. Because by failing fast, you will have learnt your mistakes and inched a step closer to your company’s goals. Most companies struggle to make the switch from planning to execution, but with the power of Company Culture (which I’ll talk about in a bit) and Structure in the palm of your hands, this won’t be a problem for you.
- Market Needs, not Individual RequestsLiving in the modern social world has put a toll on all of us. From wanting to being socially accepted by those around us to keeping our friends and family satisfied, we hardly find the time to see how we place ourselves in the grand scheme of things.
But this is exactly what a Product Manager should do. From the get-go, your aim should be to solve market needs, not the needs of individual customers. Work towards solving a problem that a lot of people face. While it may seem like a good idea to add more features and solve the issues of those already using your product, the information that should matter most must come from the following two types of potential lifetime customers –
- Those who are not buying your product.
- Those who have bought your product, but are not actively using it or have stopped using it.
- Get your hands dirtyIn your daily work life as a Product Manager, you should behave like a seven year old kid on the beach. Now, of course I don’t mean running around, splashing in the water and giving your trip mates a rough time.
What I do mean, however, is that, like that kid, you shouldn’t be afraid to get your hands dirty. Get hacking, cracking and beating on development. Being a Product Manger does not mean that you only have to delegate tasks to your Dev team, while you sip on a hot cup of coffee. If anything, your goal is to be the courageous leader of the Dev team, taking them through an adventure – a raid through the unknown worlds, emerging back victorious.
- Create a culture of opennessOut with the old, in with the new. Gone are the days when company employees commented about their bosses behind their backs, companies these days are all about open and honest communication. And why shouldn’t it be so? Time and time again, it has been proven to be the most efficient communication model towards achieving cultural success.
As a Product Manager, it is your responsibility to ensure that this culture grows, creating with it an innovation & collaboration-driven environment. Help employees understand their role in the entire process, and align their views with the growth of the company. Provide platforms for better participation in company-wide decisions. Make leaders share information about themselves and the organization so that they build better trust and credibility. By doing so, you are creating a path for your desired success to occur.
- Always be learning
“Education is the kindling of a flame, not the filling of a vessel.”
It is exactly this flame that you, as a aspiring Product Manager, have to rekindle time after time to ensure continued success. If you are not constantly looking out for what you need to learn, there is a very good chance that you will be left behind, or at least be less effective. And in this ever-changing world where success is of the utmost importance, being left behind is never an option. The tricks are out there to discover, refine, and modify your approach. And since we’re a part of this beautiful digital world, it’s only a simple click away.