10 Principles of Product Management

A mission of a Product Manager is to keep on tracking connections outside and inside the company and work at their intersections. Strong Product Managers lead, not traditionally rule.

An important quality of a Product Manager is the ability to accept own strengths soberly and to ask for help if these strengths are not enough.

1. Focus on business

Business development comes down to helping your client and then converting that help into profit. “How does this make money?” — The next question. The road to profit is a labyrinth with tons of opportunities and even more dead-ends. It is necessary to understand the fundamental laws of business: not only is the product important on its own merit, but also how much it costs to support and develop it, how to promote it on the market.

The Product Manager is the bridge that connects business and technology, executives and executors.

He must know how marketing, sales and financial management work. Everything is on a higher rate.The ability to find a balance between high-priced and aggressive experimentation, harmonious product development and business goals — one of the main strengths of a Product Manager.

2. Understanding of technologies

A Product Manager has to understand the product: how to highlight its competitive advantages and explain in detail how it works. If you, for example, argue with developers about their algorithms, you are on foreign soil. You don’t need to have engineering skills, but you do need to be knowledgeable of development and navigate the technology landscape.

When was the last time you used the product you are selling?

A Product Manager who doesn’t understand product technology is like a barista who doesn’t drink coffee. You can still do a pretty good job, but being passionate about your own product isn’t a substitute for skills

3. Empathy

The goal of a Product Manager is to make sure that any one of the hundreds of decisions — big and small — keeps the team on track. At the end of this path is user satisfaction. Remember that a perspective user isn’t the same as a perspective user, a buyer of the product. Not every person with money is your potential client.

A Product Manager must work both who are willing to pay money for the product, and for the users who make your product alive. To do this well, you need to understand the audience. Don’t assume, but know who your users are and what they expect from the product.

Don’t mix customer and user. They are different people with different goals. You need to know how the product will make your client successful tomorrow and in five years.

The client you have is not necessarily the client you want.

Developers are not children that you need to protect from the hard truth of life. Quite the opposite: developers need to be very clear about both users and customers.

4. Collaboration

Sometimes the best scenario for your team doesn’t equal the best for your business. A Product Manager must clearly identify the team’s priorities.

In case first team thinks it wins when the others lose, then everyone will be in trouble soon. The key principles of teamwork within one company are trust, transparency and accountability. Make sure (and show others) that your team is responsive to the needs of other teams and their goals do not conflict.

Everyone — from Executives to Top Managers — makes mistakes in assessing resources, goals and situations. You don’t have the answers to all the questions. What is in your absolute power is to coordinate in time and ask for outside help.

5. Personal communication

Extremes are always dangerous. Not saying something, being afraid of hurting someone’s feelings = pushing a person to a mistake.

It’s easy to create a toxic atmosphere. But nothing can replace personal communication, backed up by correct information and kindness. Kindness is an abstract thing, everyone interprets it in their own way. Anyway, soft skills of a Product Manager are just as important as “objective” skills.

6. Storytelling

A Product Manager is a leader that must be a good storyteller. He highlights the possibilities and potential of something that doesn’t exist. Moreover, it works both ways: it is important to sell a product idea, but it is even more important to “sell” the user to the developers.

A great Product Manager makes sure everyone on team feels connected to the business and shares the same level of responsibility and dedication to user needs. His job is to represent people who are not in the room.

“If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up the men to gather wood, divide the work, and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea.” — Antoine de Saint-Exupery

7. Exchange of information

Perhaps the hardest part of managing large projects is coordinating information. Beware of the “fog of war”. The trick is to calculate the signal-to-noise ratio correctly. Moreover, excessive communication is catching up with “fog” as well as its lack.

A Product Manager regularly have to answer questions like “We rolled out an update, who should find out about this?” to a much more personal “My team is stuck with a new task, who can I turn to for help?” To do this, you have to manage the flow of information (and emotions) skillfully.

The heart of Product Management is influencing without power. The more successful you are in your direct responsibilities the less you get involved in the day-to-day affairs of the team.

From the very beginning, lay the groundwork — knowledge. Knowledge of the client, competitors, other teams and how they can help the yours.

7. Courage, positivity and… implacability

These are three things a team really needs from a Product Manager. Success is difficult, otherwise everyone would have achieved it. Only courage, positivity and implacability help to meet difficulties.

The courage — to operate with the data you have and make responsible decisions.

Positivity — to work efficiently on mistakes. That’s is about saying “no” when you really want to say yes (because yes is always easier).

Relentless — because you are going to have to ups and downs over and over again. You must be ready (always, under any conditions) to take three steps forward, two steps back and forward again

8. Discipline

Even a talented Product Manager must be a marathon runner, and without discipline and clear organization, this is impossible. There is a lot of routine in product management, a lot of information and tasks that need to be prioritized regularly. Everything will fall apart without discipline.

There is always the danger of getting caught with little stuff. Or interfere with someone else’s work. If your current task doesn’t match your position, and this task is draining all your strength, something went wrong. Sometimes you have to let something get collapsed so as not to ruin the whole project.

9. Flexibility

Many companies, including Intel and Amazon, operate on a “Disagree and commit” principle. The point is that a Manager can disagree with a decision until it is approved. The approved decision is a law.

But there is a more flexible principle I used to: “Disagree and rethink”. The point is to rethink the solution as new data becomes available. This is not about fitting the data to your original idea and not about conflicting with colleagues. Think of this as another opportunity for growth: even if you disagree with a decision, it’s a great excuse to learn to work as a team by stepping over your own ego.

10. A little goes a long way

Your product is part of something bigger. It is important to understand how this big story fits into the macro history of customers and users, what requirements your product meet directly, and what — indirectly.

Get ready to “change lenses”: here you look at the process from the point of view of the business, there — at the task from the point of view of its performer.

The final test of a good Product Manager is the willingness to cut off the product if it doesn’t fit into the global business history. Cut courageously, positively and implacably.

Product Manager nut. Stirring up some monkey business. Delivering genius solutions. Teaching on moonlighting. Usually here: https://t.me/productmonkey