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We had a fantastic webinar last week with Greg Geracie of Actuation Consulting where he discussed Three Tips to Improve Your Effectiveness as a Product Manager. There were some great questions coming from the audience and we wanted to make sure that everyone had their questions answered. All of the questions that we were not able to get to during the session are answered below. Special thanks to Greg for taking the time to respond to these!
Question: As a new addition to an older, established company, I am currently developing a gate process for the New Product Development process, but do you have a suggested approach to teaching the management team about the importance and justification for a Portfolio Development and maintenance initiative? Right now, they are battling me on this movement./span>
The best way to convince executives is to use facts. If you have data from within your organization that shows that new product development activities have historically struggled or failed (i.e. a baseline) and consumed valuable resources (which can be documented) than I would pursue that approach. If possible, supplement your company's statistics with industry statics or benchmarks that show that most new products fail and thus warrant closer scrutiny.
It is also worth pointing out that incremental growth opportunities and maintenance activities may not require the same amount of process rigor as new product development does. Risk is proportionately lower in these activities. You may find it helpful to get control of the new product development process first and then blend in the other areas to ensure a broader view of overall portfolio investments. Having said that, be careful not to stifle incremental product growth opportunities by applying too rigorous a process to these activities. Once again, the historical data should help you make the decision if additional process rigor is warranted.
Question: You did a good job of covering how we tend to get in to product management, but what is the common career progression? What are we aiming for, and what do we do (besides our jobs) to get there?/span>
I don't believe that there is one single career progression for product management professionals. In fact, my experience tells me that there is really more than one type of product manager.
In my view product managers tend to move along the following tracks. Highly entrepreneurial product managers tend to move toward positions that enable them to use the skills they acquired during their tenure as a product manager to lead start ups and even assume the role of CEO. Most of these type of product managers tend to see product management as a route to achieving their goal and not as the destination in itself. I have had several friends and colleagues go this route. A second set of product managers that I would characterize as less entrepreneurial but with broad cross-functional and strong P&L experience have moved on to assume general management roles.
And then there is a broad swath of product managers who are hardwired for the product management profession and love the cascading variety of challenges that constitute the role. They continue on in the profession moving up the ranks to assume product management or marketing leadership roles (depending on industry) .
Finally, there is a subset of product managers that leave the profession due to the lack of control that the position entails and go on to other roles that allow for more direct control of aspects of their professional careers.
In order to develop a plan to get "there" I think you have to first define what type of product manager you are. Once you know the answer to that question you can select that path that best fits your skills and lay the paving stones to achieve your objective.
Question: In your experience, how many organizations have a handle on their product production process from start to finish?/span>
The short answer is too few!
I would estimate that roughly 10 to 15% of organizations have mapped out the operational product processes for their products from beginning to end. In fact, when you think about it this is really quite shocking. If you as a product manager don't understand the process, interrelationships, and deliverables that support the creation and maintenance of your product it increases the odds that you'll have breakdowns particularly in the hand-offs between the various parties. Increase the odds of your success and act as the catalyst in your organization to map the product production process by partnering with your project manager to make it happen. You'll likely find that this improves efficiency and simplifies communication with all the parties supporting your product.
Question: Great tips and some are easy to forget in the heat of battle. Does your book have a lot more information like this and how has your book fared?/span>
Yes, my book Take Charge Product Management/span> contains tons of tips on how you can become more effective in your role as a product manager. For additional detail you might also want to check out one of our popular training courses as they go even deeper into these topics. The courses are designed to be highly actionable and help you apply these tips, tactics, and tools.
I'm pleased to say that my book has done very well. It's now #1 in the UK, #1 in Canada and #3 in the United States on Amazon.com.