It takes an insane amount of hard work and effort to become a Great Product Manager (I’m very much still on the journey myself). And once you get there, it takes more consistent work to stay at the top of your game.
Throughout my career, however, I’ve noticed many similarities in the Great Product Managers around me and I’ve distilled those habits and the critical components of the Product Management role into this list of the “5 P’s of Product Management.”
What This List Is
A guide highlighting and exploring many of the most critical components of the Product Management role and the traits of the best Product Managers.
What This List Isn’t
An exhaustive list of everything a Product Manager should do or should not do. There isn’t enough time in the world to put together that list!
The 5 P’s of Product Management
A Great Product Manager knows the right amount of time to spend on the past, present, and future and when to shift their perspective/focus between these areas.
Past: What trends have brought the business to where it is today? What mistakes were made in the past and why? What were the big wins of the past?
Present: What do customers love about the product today? What do they hate? What trends of the past continue today, which ones don’t? What feedback today do we pay attention to, what feedback do we ignore?
Future: What are the next things we should build? How can our product be differentiated from the competition or the industry? What should we abandon, what should we keep?
A Great Product Manager can shift their mental priority list on a daily basis.
The Great Product Manager is running a business, not just a product, and that business requires constant adjustment.
This doesn’t mean they communicate those changes to the team or to leadership on a daily basis. That would be a mistake.
Rather, this does mean that they are always thinking of new opportunities and weighing those against the priorities of the past, even if that past was yesterday.
The Great Product Manager also says “No” at least 10 times as often as he says “Yes”. “No” can take many different forms:
“We’ll consider that for the next version”
“Let’s try asking customers about that first before we go further”
These are just a couple of examples of powerful phrases for a Product Manager to say “No” while preserving team morale and/or relationships with other teams.
Great Product Managers are incredibly persistent.
They have the ability to translate the goals of the business into OKRs for their teams and then translate those (with help from their team) into user stories that developers can complete.
Once those user stories are created, and as they continue tobe created, the Great Product manager is persistent in making sure the team is laser-focused on the tasks needed to generate value for customers and deliver on the goals they have committed to.
The best Product Managers are persistent in the pursuit of the goals of their team and of the organization.
A Great Product Manager is always presenting and always communicating.
They pitch their products to family, friends, acquaintances, and even strangers. They aren’t afraid of negative feedback; in fact, they love it as it gives them the fuel to improve.
They know how to get people inside and outside of their company excited about a problem and about the hypotheses they have to solve that problem.
They present team successes and team learnings often to leadership, the broader organization, and even outsiders at conferences.
Presentation and communication are incredibly valuable parts of the Product Management role and without these skills, a PM is lost.
A Great Product Manager has a palpable passion for their product(s).
They think about their products when they wake up in the middle of the night. They consider future opportunities and strategies for their product on the weekend. They worry about the pain points their customers are experiencing. They get excited about new companies, technologies, and problem-solving approaches in their industry.
This does not mean a Great Product Manager has to have a destructive work-life balance, but rather that they have to have a passion for the product, their customers, and the problem they are solving. And they have to express that passion to those around them.
This also does not mean that they let their passion cloud their judgment and what is truly right for the business and their customers.
Bonus P: Pliability
Great Product Managers are extremely pliable generalists.
They have enough skills to be dangerous in many, many, many different areas, but are only true specialists in a few.
They recognize quality designs vs. crappy ones, they understand their customer’s wants and needs, they know how to market and promote their products, they understand what analytics they need and how to interpret them, they even understand technical trade-offs and the high-level differences between programming languages.
It’s completely normal that many, if not most, of these general skills will lie dormant for months for Great Product Managers; however, they have the ability to activate the right skills for a new product, a shifting business landscape, or a strategic opportunity.
They are also always learning. If they see a weakness in their skillset, they fill it.
Aren’t familiar with SQL and database queries?
Not sure how to do multivariate testing?
Product Managers don’t need to know everything, but they attack their shortcomings at the right time to deliver the right decisions for the right product.
What P’s of Product Management Do You Think I Missed?
I’d love to hear from you in the comments or on Twitter at: @amitch5903