Product managers drive the vision, strategy, design, and execution of their product. While one can often quickly comprehend the basic responsibilities of the role, mastering each of these dimensions is truly an art form that one is constantly honing.
In the last decade as a product manager here in Silicon Valley I've learned an incredible number of important lessons on how to be better at this role. In this presentation I share my lessons learned on the art behind each of these four dimensions of product management. I cover role models that exemplify each dimension, best practices on excelling at that dimension's discipline, and countless examples from valley companies that exemplify these traits. Look out for links in the footer of slides for further reading from my blog on each topic that wouldn't conveniently fit in the slides. I hope this helps fellow product managers accelerate their own learning on mastering this craft.
One of the challenges we've long acknowledged in the tech industry is how difficult the transition can be from a software engineer to an engineering manager due to the vast distinction in the skill set to be great at the new role. Equally challenging but less talked about is how much this same challenge exists when transitioning from a product manager to a manager of product managers, ie. a product leader.
I wanted to share some of the best practices I learned along the way making my own transition from a product manager to a product leader.
I've found across the many products I've managed that I ultimately end up developing at least three key dashboards that I review in detail every week. They help me have a constant pulse on how well the product is performing against our objectives and reviewing them on an ongoing basis helps to build my own intuition for what's ultimately going to move the needle in the right direction.
Those three dashboards are acquisition, engagement, and monetization.
One aspect of startups that the ecosystem is getting better at is designing our startups for learning from our customers to find product/market fit. Steve Blank and Eric Ries helped popularize these notions and the ecosystem has embraced them.
But what I've found surprising is that these learnings haven't been readily applied to the development process and they definitely should be. From the earliest stages of a startup, the R&D team should be designed in such a way to maximize learning for improving the R&D process itself.
Every startup I've worked at folks have lamented about how there were never enough resources to accomplish everything they wanted to. Whether it was not enough engineers to build the desired features, not enough designers to design those experiences, not enough marketers to drum up interest, or not enough salespeople to generate revenue. It always felt like the startup couldn't hire fast enough to meet the desires of the business. And the classic belief was that we would be able to achieve our goals if we just had a few more people on the team. It's easy to understand why folks have that mentality given resources are certainly a necessary ingredient to getting things done. When a startup is in the company building & scaling phase, excellence in hiring and on-boarding quality talent faster than others is a potential competitive advantage.
But I want to make the counter-argument for why a minimum viable team, or a small team just big enough to ship and iterate on your minimum viable product, has it's own advantages at the earliest phase of a startup when you are pre-product/market fit.