Six New Year's Resolutions Every Product Manager Should Make
It’s the same story every year, isn’t it?You promised yourself not to make any resolutions again. But then, halfway through December, a nagging thought begins to creep up on you: "Shouldn’t I try to improve myself?"And suddenly you begin to analyze your behavior, looking for things to change, and the vicious circle starts all over, right?There’s plenty of evidence confirming that even though we’re eager to set New Year’s Resolutions, practically nobody keeps them past the first week.But don’t let that dissuade you. Resolutions aren’t bad. In fact, they’re proof of our constant desire to change what we, consciously or not, identify as personal or professional shortcomings.Today we decided to have some fun and list what we believe should be every product manager’s most important new year’s resolutions.Intrigued to see what you should try to improve? Keep on reading…
Resolution #1: “I Should Say No to Product Features More Often.”
Oh, I bet you know the feeling. You look at your original product roadmap and your heart sinks.You had such a clear product vision. You aimed to create something you knew would satisfy the needs of your target audience.But then someone shared a feature suggestion and you decided to incorporate it into the plan.Then, a potential client requested a feature and you decided to build it into the product.Then, you spotted a new trend and concluded that it should make it to the plan as well.Before you knew it, what started as a simple and useful product became a bloat of features.“Feature creep” is one of the greatest challenges product managers face; you have to constantly sift through ideas, requests, and suggestions to decide which options are actually useful.And as it turns out, there’s no better solution for feature creep than saying no and saying it often. So for the New Year, try to reject more feature requests.And when keeping the resolution gets tough, implement this process for assessing the validity of a feature suggestion.
Resolution #2: “I Will Talk to My Customers More Often.”
Fact: Solid user feedback should be the foundation of the majority of your decisions.But it’s so easy to focus only on impersonal ways to gather customer opinions — surveys, usability testing, or clickstream analyses— and forget that nothing beats active engagement with the target market.So for the next year, make an effort to get out of the office more.Talk to your customers and prospects. Listen to what they have to say about problems your product aims to help them eradicate. Let them question the validity of new features in your roadmap. And ask current customers to provide feedback on features you might want to kill in the future.
Resolution #3: “I Will Make Decisions Faster.”
Unnecessarily long project planning phases, exhausting information gathering sessions, and slow movement between various stages of the product development are indications of analysis paralysis within an organization.The cost of this paralysis is stalled product development, plus frustration and tension between teams.So in 2016, try to make decisions faster. Prioritize them, determine a goal for making each decision, and forget about perfection. After all, there are pros and cons of every choice you’re going to make. And sometimes, picking a “good-enough” decision is the best option.
Resolution #4: “I Will Bury the Hatchet with Sales and Support Teams and Cooperate with Them to Better Understand Our Customers’ Needs.”
Yes, I know, salespeople are sometimes hard to bear.But since you ultimately share the same organizational goals,you should make the effort to work together.The same applies to your relationship with customer support teams.Just think about it: no one knows your prospects better than salespeople, and no one has deeper knowledge about your customers needs than support teams.So next year, make the effort to get out of your office and meet with sales and support. Ask sales people if you could accompany them to client meetings to help you better understand your potential users’ needs and problems.Hold regular review sessions with the support teams too to review the most common questions and problems your users face.Staying in touch with both teams will help you gain a deep insight into users’ needs and plan ways to overcome them.
Resolution #5: “I Will Improve Communication Within and Across Teams.”
Did you know that one out of five projects fails due to ineffective communication?According to a report by the Project Management Institute, 80% of projects within organizations that communicate effectively meet their original goals, while only 52% of those that fail at communication end up with success.It therefore goes without saying that successful product management depends on excellent communication.Next year, work on improving how you communicate ideas and problems. Hold regular meetings between stakeholders and production teams to prevent losing crucial details in translation.Also, listen to your staff more. Pay attention to your teams’ challenges and help them overcome them.
Resolution #6 “I Will Read More and Spend More Time Improving My Skills.”
Product management is synonymous with innovation. You have to constantly come up with new ways to solve customers’ problems, overcome their challenges, and ensure that your product remains modern in our fast-changing world.What’s one of the best ways to achieve innovation? By reading great books and expanding your horizons (At least that’s what I do).In 2016, try to set a goal to read at least one good product management related book a month.If you don’t know where to start, consider picking up one of these:
- “Crossing the Chasm” by G.A. Moore
- “Hooked” by Nir Eyal
- “Making It Right” by Rian van der Merwe
- “UX for Lean Startups” by Laura Klein
- “Ten Types of Innovation” by L. Keeley
And if you’re looking for more suggestions, check out the product management reading list by The Clever PM.
New Year’s Resolutions aren’t bad. They prove that we constantly strive to change what we, consciously or not, identify as personal or professional shortcomings.The next time you begin to feel you need to change, don’t fight it. Consider what elements of the way you do things you’d like to change, make a new year’s resolution and… stick with it.