How to Develop Strong Product Managers
By Arijit Banerjee
A product manager is the go-to person for every department. Often, amidst all the chaos, he/she can lose sight of being a good product leader. Employees work for a company happily when they feel valued and a product manager has a vital role in ensuring it. So, it is important to not only build a strong product team, but also develop the team and create growth opportunities for the individuals who form the team.
Multiple factors or dimensions have to be considered while developing strong product managers. A ‘skill and development plan’ should be drafted to assess gaps in the employee’s present and expected performance, in terms of each dimension. Each skill has its own importance and differs from organization to organization. Therefore, every skill should be prioritized in the development plan as well.
The skills have been categorized into four core pillars of management:
Pillar 1: Soft Skills
Communicating the vision for the product and motivating the product team as well as stakeholders is important to ensure that there is coordination in building the product.
ii. Relationship Building
a). Team Collaboration – The Product Manager should work in a way that brings about cohesion and mutual respect between teams and team leaders.
b). Stakeholder Management – It is the job of the Product Manager to build inclusive relationships with the stakeholders of the product to ensure that they remain committed to the success of the product.
iii. People Management
a). Time Management – The Product Manager should also be efficient in prioritizing and delegating tasks to other members of the team.
b). Leadership – The Product Manager need not have to manage anyone, but instead lead by example and be able to positively influence as well as motivate people in the team.
c). Community – The Product Manager should also be able to handle the community in a gentle manner.
Pillar 2 – Business Acumen
i. Business & Financial Knowledge - The Product Manager is expected to be able to understand the economics and financial dynamics of the product and guide teams through the process accordingly.
ii. Customer Discovery – The Product Manager’s responsibilities include discovering new customers for the product by interviewing, assessing opportunities and understanding customer needs.
Pillar 3 – Domain Knowledge
The Product Manager should have strong knowledge of the product industry to be able to steer the product to success.
Pillar 4 – Technical & UX Skills
Knowledge of the best product version, etc. are basic things that the Product Manager is expected to know.
a). User/Customer Knowledge – The product manager should be able to determine who the end users or customers are for the product they are developing.
b). User Experience Design – The Product Manager should be able to give valuable inputs on topics of user experience design and be able to fully utilize his/her team to create the best UX.
iii. Product Lifecycle
a). Product Knowledge - The Product Manager should be aware of the product being developed.
b). Product Discovery – This includes using qualitative and quantitative product techniques to create a minimum viable product.
c). Product Optimization - These are the skills required to rapidly refine existing products using optimization techniques.
d). Product Development Process – The Product Manager ought to have a deep understanding of the product development process and be able to carry the product through its entire lifecycle.
Once the assessment has been made, a good product leader can then provide training or exercises to develop the skills required to bridge the gap. Frequent sit-downs should be held to discuss progress and development since there is no substitute for the ongoing engaged development of a team’s skills.