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How to become a product manager - for yourself!

In the majority of large organisations I work with, the product management capability is weak.


Typically it's because the people in the role are new into it, haven't had training, and are being asked to perform this role in addition to their 'day job'. Whilst clearly an anti-pattern (some might even say agile bullshit), if you make a similar observation it's important to approach this without judgment, and instead with curiosity and by offering invitations to help.


So, if you're a new product owner or manager, here's a technique that can help you if you're new or fancy a refresh. Imagine that YOU are the product you're responsible for managing, because NEWSFLASH - you are!


In know it's a bit meta, but here's a bunch of product management skills you can use to create and deliver the product of 'You as a product manager'!


Market Research:

Researching best practices, tools, and techniques in product management is similar to market research for a product:

  1. Reading books is my jam, so I default to this starting point, if it's the same for you then here's a bunch of book recommended by an amazing agile community

  1. Training courses are not created equal, but there are some great product people out there offering training such as Roman Pichler and Karim Harbot;

  2. Meet-ups such as the London Agile Product Jam directly connects you with others on the journey and helps you start to build your personal network;

  3. Conferences are a great way to hear from industry experts, understand case studies and figure out what the current hot topics are. Mind the Product is my favourite

  4. Social media is full of smart people in the product management space, so check out John Cutler and Melissa Perri

What's also key as part of your market research is figuring out how you want to position yourself in the market. To help with this do some...


User research:

Context is queen, so figuring out what your potential customers require is critical. Who even are your customers? What product features (personal skills and characteristics) are important for them? How and when do they intend to use those features? Use this information to...


Devise your strategy

Do you want more customers? Deeper relationships with existing customers? A different type of customer? To offer the same features as others, or something unique?

What share of the market do you want? How are you going to launch and sell yourself?

Strategizer have a great value proposition canvas for helping you uncover this.


Self-Assessment and Setting Goals:

Knowing what the role is, the specific expectations of your users, and your value proposition allows you to assess your current strengths and weaknesses. Maybe the PO Bullseye template can be helpful here, but based on what you uncover, you can set short (1-3 month), medium (3-9 month) and longer term (9-18 month) goals for your development in the role / launch of the product - YOU!

Please don't underestimate the importance of patience and taking your time to learn the role by doing, before marketing yourself as an expert. In order to have a clear path towards expert status...


Create a Roadmap:

Once you know what you're going after, you can start to map out these goals in the logical order they need to happen. This is not a project plan, this is an aspirational direction of travel. Having this in a visual format can be very insightful and identify potential bottlenecks or dependencies. It also provides the bridge to breaking the goals down into smaller more manageable chunks, but don't forget to...


Define KPIs and Success Metrics:

How will you know that you're succeeding? What are the leading or lagging indicators that provide meaningful insight into your progress? You need some data to regularly assess progress against to ensure that your goals are being met, ideally gathered empirically through...


Writing your hypothesis and design some experiments:

Don't assume your ideas are the right ideas. Try to mirror the build-measure-learn cycle (from Lean Start-Up by Eric Reis) by creating an iterative process where you're constantly trying to validate, or disprove, your hypothesis as quickly as possible. Here's an experiment canvas to help guide your thinking on this.

These experiments form your backlog of work, which you then need to...


Prioritise ruthlessly:

Just like a product manager must prioritise features based on things like value, ROI and effort, managing your time and focusing on high-impact activities is crucial for building your confidence and capability. Strive to provide value little and often rather than big drops infrequently.


Now all you need to do is...


Sell your vision:

The best product managers are great storytellers who can convey their ideas in a way that makes others want to be part of their journey. They clearly express the WHY in a compelling way, so be willing to openly discuss and use your vision to inspire your customers. Help them understand that everyone benefits from a winning product, and invite them to help create a shared success.


Customer feedback:

Continuously seek feedback from colleagues, customers, wider stakeholders, then use this feedback to assess your priorities and make necessary adjustments to your backlog. Like a product, your market and customer needs are likely to change over time. Being adaptable and willing to change strategies or learn new skills is key.


Fuck being humble badge

Celebrate Small Wins:


As a Product Manager, it’s important to celebrate product milestones. Don't be scared to shout about small personal achievements and share them widely. Let people know how well your product is performing!


If your worried about coming across as smug or arrogant then just take a leaf out of Stephanie Sword-Williams book, or do some...


Competitor Analysis:

Who else is currently operating in the same market as you and targeting the same customers? What are they doing? How are they marketing themselves? How can you crush them? (Only joking. Sort of.)

 

By considering yourself a product and systematically applying product management principles to your development, you'll gain hands-on experience in understanding the lifecycle and responsibilities. All of which are directly transferable to any products that you'll manage.


So...what are you waiting for?




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