As a product manager are you constantly sweeping up the mess made by someone else?

In our training, we ask delegates what they find hardest about their job. Their answers are interesting because the same themes come up again and again. “I’m too busy”, “Too much firefighting” or “People don’t really understand what I do”.

They complain they spend too much time sorting out issues that are dumped on them by colleagues that don’t really understand what product management does.

Of course, we’re sympathetic … but I sometimes wonder if we bring some of this upon ourselves…

For example, a salesperson calls you about the latest pricing. It’s on the intranet and in the email you sent them last month but they still phone you!

While it’s tempting to just give them the answer, if you do, you’re encouraging them to waste your time with the same question in the future.

Your aim for any routine queries should be to build a long-term solution that doesn’t involve you and frees up your time.

So maybe your answer is “Do you have access to the intranet where we keep the latest pricing and product information? Let me know if you can’t find what you want and I’ll make sure it gets updated.”

Let’s take another example.

You have a colleague who handles the product marketing activities for your product but seems to pick and choose the things he wants to work on and expects you to pick up the rest.

In this instance, you could tackle the issue head-on, and set up a meeting to agree which activities each of you are responsible for. And if that isn’t effective setup another to include your managers. You can then be confident and clear about what you will (and will not) do.

One of the final points we make on our training is that as a product manager you need to recognize that there is always too much to do.

It’s a bit like revising for an exam – you have to decide how much time to devote to each topic and you know there is always more you could cover.

So, in your job you have to prioritize and focus on the important stuff. That means being willing to say No if someone asks you to sort out something that’s just not important or where help is available elsewhere.

Hopefully, these ideas will help ensure your desk is not the place where all the company rubbish is dumped!

Ian Lunn
Director, Product Focus

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