What would you tell your younger self?

I shudder to think how little I knew when I first started out in product management. Although at the time I’m pretty sure I thought I knew it all.

We set ourselves the challenge of asking “If I could have stood in front of a mirror and told myself 2 things when I first started out – what would they have been?”

We both scratched our heads, tried to be honest and came up with two each …

1. Spend time working out what customers really want – that’s the real basis of success

2. Work on a product in a fast-growing market – no matter what you do, chances are that you will look good (cynical I know, but not entirely without truth)

and…

1. Just because someone is more senior than you it doesn’t mean they’re automatically right

2. Get some training. Product management skills so you know what to do and soft skills so you can get things done. (OK, we’re biased, but it’s why we started Product Focus)

If you’d like to add your own – just leave a reply below.

Ian Lunn
Director, Product Focus

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Join the conversation - 11 replies

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Be ruthless in questioning the business reasons on why you should launch a product and don’t take your seniors opinion on it as gospel.

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1) Don’t be afraid to go ‘all in’ to transform a platform or architecture even when others are resisting the change. If it makes commercial sense, write down the reasons why it makes sense and influence, influence, influence…
2) Don’t measure time to market by your own ambitions nor the ability of the developers. Time to market is really the customer adoption time. Beta everything early and don’t make promises you don’t need to make.

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1, Don’t refresh a product just because it’s there, find out if it’s still needed.

2, Innovate, don’t replicate.

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1. Stick to the strategic priorities of the business and market not the whims of managers.

Then when implementing the strategy…

2. If you haven’t had time to check the detail yet, don’t let it happen.

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make sure you understand who your competitors are and what their USPs are.

Then…

Don’t let internal people convince you what the customer wants, get out the office and find out yourself.

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1) Don’t make too advanced/detailed plans and hold on to them too rigidly as someone/something inevitably will come along and divert things before you’re half-way there.

2) When this ‘change of plans’ happens, just embrace it, be flexible and take out a new direction while keeping the overriding objectives in mind.

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1. Everyone has an opinion if you need to make a decision stick to the facts and what the actual requirements are

2. If you have a real strong gut feel about something then go with that, 99% of the time its right….

A little extra one…. don’t get emotionally attached to something

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1. Always ask the question ‘so what?’ from the customer’s perspective. If you can’t answer it with something substantial/valuable, then question what it is that you’re actually doing.

2. Stop making excuses – spend more time in front of your customers, it will provide you will INVALUABLE insight!

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1) Build in flexibility as requirements WILL change – before or after launch.
2) Keep it as simple as possible. Don’t over-engineer. It’s simpler and MUCH less expensive to change or improve a manual process than an automated one.

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1. your opinion, while interesting, is irrelevant

2. perfect your “so what?” test… keep asking why until the truth comes out

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I’ve spent most of my career in very large shops, which strongly influences my responses (that are probably related):

1. Understand ALL your critical stakeholders well; the customer is probably not the only one who will determine your success

2. Understand how your product’s vision and goals support broader visions and goals, e.g., at the corporate level, and articulate that linkage well

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