Open Question – One thing you wish you had known when you became a PM

By | July 23, 2010


Hi

Simple question :

What’s one thing you know now that you wish you had known when you became a Product Manager?

Think of it as advice you’d like to pass down to those new to or thinking about entering the field.

I’ll start.

I wish I had really understood the value of ruthless prioritization. By that I mean prioritizing all the things that were (seemingly) expected of me, and being able to clearly define what was most important and focus on those.

I remember being completely overwhelmed in my first Product Management position by trying to do what I thought was expected of me by all the other teams.

It was a huge learning curve, and this was in a company that in hindsight, probably had one of the best grasps of Product Management of any company I’ve worked in.

OK, over to you. Please leave your answers in the comments section below.

Saeed

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19 thoughts on “Open Question – One thing you wish you had known when you became a PM

  1. Jim Holland

    Saeed – Thanks for asking the question and opening up the conversation. I agree that personal and responsibility prioritization is top on the list.

    The one thing I’d wish I’d known… would relate to relationships. Having a technical sales background, I had the “outside” perspective and relationships with customers, prospects and the field organization. What I had to learn and build was the “inside” collaboration with cross-teams that really mattered when it came to building, delivering and supporting product.

    Reply
    1. Saeed Post author

      Jim

      Thanks for the comment. Agreed, relationships are critical…perhaps more so for Product Management (given the cross functional role) than any other role. I actually debated what would be the one thing I’d write, and this topic was a VERY close second to the one I mentioned.

      Saeed

      Reply
  2. april

    i wish i would have known how much everybody will want to express their opinion. its like being a bus driver with all your passengers telling you how to drive.
    we should do this? and you know it would be nice to have this? and you know how this thing doesn’t work right? and this one time in band camp…

    Reply
    1. Saeed Post author

      As they say, opinions are like bellybuttons. Everyone’s got one. But, businesses are not run on opinions (or instinct). The solution is to have good data (market facts as they say) and use those to make evidenced based decisions.

      Here’s a post I wrote on that topic.

      http://wp.me/pXBON-1M

      Saeed

      Reply
  3. Nick

    I wish I had understood how important engineering’s enthusiasm was. If they like it you get great functionality on time and bug free. If they don’t you get the late delivery of buggy nonsense.
    On the other hand for them to like it they need an understanding of the application space, business problems etc, unfortunately that also means they think they are the product manager.

    Reply
    1. Saeed Post author

      Engineering enthusiasm to build the product is critical, but then so is sales enthusiasm to sell the product. :-)

      A big part of Product Management is selling ideas — i.e. making the case — and ensuring others understand the value of what they are doing.

      Sr. Management also has to set the culture for this as well. No point in focusing your efforts on a product that Sr. Mgmt (implicitly or explicitly) indicates is not important.

      To get Engineering to “like it”, you need to include them in the research process. This doesn’t mean taking them with you on every customer call, but invite them to dial into a few key meetings with external parties, and let them hear first hand what problems people want addressed. It’ll go a long way to getting them on your side.

      Reply
  4. Robert Reynolds

    I wish I had known that not all decisions could or would be driven by data and the wisdom to identify them quickly and move on.

    Reply
    1. Saeed Post author

      The ability to make good decisions are a critical part of the PM job — http://wp.me/pXBON-91 — but that skill comes with experience. It’s a balance of the data you have and certain intangibles. And yes, sometimes you have to “go with your gut”, but let’s hope that is only in extreme cases.

      Reply
  5. Yury Lifshits

    Ship EARLY. If possible, ship a bare version tonight. If not, then ship something this week. Defer everything else: meetings, competitive analysis, mocks, designs, tools selection. Shipping gives you a lot of new input that can make other items in the todo list obsolete. Shipping early is the best way to avoid useless work.

    Reply
    1. Saeed Post author

      Yury,

      I agree with you to a certain extent.

      The question is, who are you shipping to? Are the people who get your bare version part of your target market?

      The feedback you get will determine what you do, but does that mean you are building for the most valuable market segment, or simply the most vocal one?

      Saeed

      Reply
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  8. Brian Weber

    Importance of market facts over opinions of internal experts.

    Reply
  9. Christian Almgren

    The ability to say “No” earlier in the process. Not try to do everything for everyone, realise that sometimes we can save ouselves a lot of time and effort by just saying No at an early stage.

    Reply
  10. paresh

    Sort of related to the value of prioritization. I wish I had known the importance and nature of bigger picture while prioritizing. The bigger picture which is not just about the market and target segments and customer needs but also the alignment with the organizational strategy and political considerations, which are important for long term success of ideas.

    Reply
  11. Trev

    How little the business really cares that PrM wishes to listen to the whole market rather than the directors or sales teams opinions

    Reply
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