As Product Managers, you are or will be faced with having to make hundreds of decisions throughout the life of your project. Some of those decisions will be about the product but many will not. The aim of this stack is to help you first frame correctly the context, and then provide a variety of ways to prioritize and become more efficient at making decisions.
Before we dive into better decision and prioritization, let's make sure we understand ourselves, our strengths, and the type of Product Manager we are.
1. The Three Essential Senses of a Product Managers
Shreyas Doshi looks for 3 senses in product managers to get a gauge of just how good they are. The essential senses are:
- Product Sense: The ability to usually make the right product decision even in the presence of major ambiguity as in will this product work and all the way to does this label make sense
- Analytical Sense: The ability to frame the right questions, evaluate multiple facets of a problem, derive solutions, and simulate potential outcomes based on available data (which may be scarce)
- Execution Sense: The ability to align people against a particular objective and orchestrate complex projects in an environment where you may not have the authority to do so
Understanding these various dimensions will help assess what your superpower is
2. Focusing on the right superpower
Now that you understand how to dimensionalize the role of product manager, to succeed we need to focus your energy on being a 10-30-50 PM. That is in the top 10% in one of the senses (doesn't matter which one), top 30% in another sense, and lastly top 50% in the last sense. What this might mean is that you may need to not just maximize your superpower but work on improving one of your weaknesses.
Shreyas Doshi on Twitter: "All too often, people think execution is all about being super-organized and disciplined. That's important for good execution, but, for really great execution, you also need creativity, empathy, and persuasiveness. pic.twitter.com/apfx6WrTYA / Twitter"
All too often, people think execution is all about being super-organized and disciplined. That's important for good execution, but, for really great execution, you also need creativity, empathy, and persuasiveness. pic.twitter.com/apfx6WrTYA
3. Understanding Your Inputs, Outputs, and Outcomes
As continue your evaluation and your initiative. Understand the levers at play and often how you will ultimately be evaluated, they are:
- Inputs: This includes the quality of customer & market insight, the usefulness of artifacts, processes, communication & collaboration, decision-making
- Outputs: This can mean what is your shipping velocity, your intentional learnings gained from shipped products, the shipped product quality (did you ship high-quality products aligned with your company's brand promise? did you they think holistically about "the product"?)
- Outcomes: Usually a proxy or leading indicator of impact such as user adoption, realized business impact such as sales, or impact to other important metrics
Shreyas Doshi on Twitter: "Business impact is critical to evaluate, but it can in many cases lag well beyond the evaluation duration.So here's the framework I use to evaluate a PM's overall caliber (it can work well on situation #1 teams, but less effective as the org devolves into situation #2)👇🏾 / Twitter"
Business impact is critical to evaluate, but it can in many cases lag well beyond the evaluation duration.So here's the framework I use to evaluate a PM's overall caliber (it can work well on situation #1 teams, but less effective as the org devolves into situation #2)👇🏾
Accessing The Decision Context
The first set to reclaiming efficiency and some semblance of calm is to understand what stage the product is in and what levels of product work we need to communicate back with
1. Using 3X Framework to understand product stage
A product can belong to one of these three stages:
- Explore Stage: the risky stage where there is a search for a viable return on investment. Outcomes are unpredictable so costs should be reduced
- Expand Stage: Product-market fit has happened and you are experiencing incredible growth where bottlenecks will appear out of nowhere.
- Extract Stage: Problem and solution space are clear. At this stage, the playbook is focused on maintain and operate with bonus points on squeezing out risks and costs.
So understanding your product stage will lead you to make decisions that push the right outcome
Fast/Slow in 3X: Explore/Expand/Extract
"Are we slowing down?" asked the software executive. "Well," says me, the 3X thinker, "depends on where you are in the curve." It's been a while since I've written on 3X, so here's the basics. As an idea/product/company grows, value-maximizing behavior changes dramatically. Explore - to overcome disinterest, try many small experiments.
2. Understand the product level you need to communicate
Now that we understand the product stage let's communicate it effectively.
To that end, there are lenses or levels to product work.:
- Execution Level: This is where most of us are, delivering a feature and toiling over the details
- Impact Level: This is where senior PMs and leadership will most likely pay attention to. What is the business impact? Were the right choices made or were there too many compromises?
- Optics Level: This is where you focus on the perception of the project and yourself. Where you anticipate what leadership would want vs what is right for the business.
Shreyas Doshi on Twitter: "There are 3 levels to product work(1) The Execution level(2) The Impact level(3) The Optics levelWhen an individual & their team are fixated on different levels, often there is conflict.E.g.PM is fixated on (2), Team on (1)PM on (3), Team on (2)PM on (2), Team on (3) / Twitter"
There are 3 levels to product work(1) The Execution level(2) The Impact level(3) The Optics levelWhen an individual & their team are fixated on different levels, often there is conflict.E.g.PM is fixated on (2), Team on (1)PM on (3), Team on (2)PM on (2), Team on (3)
A framework created to help improved the quality of your life as a PM & your work by helping you prioritize tasks and challenges you are faced with.
A framework to help assess your PM superpower and what need a bit of tuning.
Very effective for proactively & rigorously addressing Eng/Design/PM conflict when building a product.
There are 3 levels to product work. When leaders, PMs & their team are fixated on different levels, often there is conflict.
Product management is about collecting the right Inputs, converting them to the right Outputs, so we can get to the right Outcomes. Like the 3X framework, this framework can help product people make better, context-sensitive observations & decisions.
As Product Managers we make or facilitate hundreds of decisions. Here is a nice framework to help communicate to the team what decision they can expect to be made independent of you and which you'd like to be consulted on.
To make a major impact with your products, accelerate your career, get the opportunity to lead other PMs & create tremendous career optionality, aim to become a 10-30-50 PM: top 10% in one of the senses, top 30% in another one, and top 50% in the third.
A product can be in one of three stages and as a product leaders its extremely important to understand which stage so the appropriate decision can be made.
Establishing a Common Set of Expectations
Don't wait for the weeks and days prior to launch, to have discussions on product details or features. Have these sometimes difficult conversations early on, so that the entire team has agreed to the product quality target.
Making the Right Decisions
Now that you understand your strengths, the stage of your product, and have established a common set of expectations decisions can be made.
1. Prioritizing Tasks
A smart PM, seeks to understand the tasks and decisions to be made, not treating them equally but rather spending more time on the important tasks and less time on the other tasks. There are 3 types of PM tasks, they are:
- Leverage: These are the important tasks. You should do a great job and let your inner perfectionist rule.
- Neutral: Do a good job, no better, spending less time here than leverage tasks.
- Overheard: Just get it done and as Shreyas mentions, try to do a bad job
In practice this may look like the following 👇
Shreyas Doshi on Twitter: "A nonspecific PM's to-do list, before using the LNO Effectiveness Framework: (not including the 4 hours of meetings they have today) pic.twitter.com/UPAZ0Pqii1 / Twitter"
A nonspecific PM's to-do list, before using the LNO Effectiveness Framework: (not including the 4 hours of meetings they have today) pic.twitter.com/UPAZ0Pqii1
2. Establishing Delegation
As you become a leader, demands on your time will increase. The urge to not delegate should be resisted. The PM Delegation 3x2 by Keith Rabois is a great way to empower your fellow PM and let them know when they should bring you in.
The 3x2 matrix is composed of two-axis representing confidence and impact to the business.
Along the X-axis is their own confidence level on a decision and on the Y-axis is the impact to the business (positive or negative) of that decision.
Shreyas recommends spending the bulk of your time on being involved with decisions that have a high impact on the business but with which your PM team has low confidence (box 6)
Shreyas Doshi on Twitter: "As a pro-tip, with PMs, it usually helps to have a medium/moderate confidence level (as otherwise everything ends up in the high confidence bucket :) ) / Twitter"
As a pro-tip, with PMs, it usually helps to have a medium/moderate confidence level (as otherwise everything ends up in the high confidence bucket :) )