Wrapping It All Up—Key Takeaways

03.10.2017 |

Episode #10 of the course Becoming a more strategic product manager by Todd Birzer


Welcome to Lesson 10 and our course wrap-up.

Our goal throughout this course is to help you become a more strategic product manager, stepping away from the highly tactical and stepping toward the more strategic elements of your job. Product managers who successfully do this have strong, positive, long-range impact on their companies and their product portfolios, generating customer delight, competitive advantage, and sustainable profits.

To become more strategic, you must say “no” to some of the more tactical areas that product managers get pulled into. Product management should absolutely have a decent dose of the tactical—our jobs should be hands-on. We just need a healthier balance between the tactical and strategic and need to ensure the tactics we do dive into are central to our work.

In this course, we discussed tactical roles that you should gently say “no” to: program or project management, product support, and sales support. If you are deeply involved in these areas, my recommendation is that you work with your team to find a better home, and gracefully extract yourself.

Stepping away from the tactical gives you bandwidth to focus on the underinvested strategic parts of your job. A great foundational step is developing a deep, intuitive understanding of your customers and their needs. Ethnographic research—with its focus on interviews and observation of people—is one of the simplest and most direct ways to understand your customer needs. The Kano model can help you analyze these needs.

Developing an articulated and coherent strategy for your product (or product group) is another major step you can take. Enlist some talented, cross-functional colleagues, do the hard thinking, and make this happen.

A one- to five-year strategy informs your team’s choices on development priorities, including your quarterly objectives and key results (OKRs) and how you set engineering time constraints on items like bug fixes and near-term client enhancements. The goal is to reserve a big chunk of your engineering bandwidth for focused technology investments, breakthrough products, and competitive distance.

We also must realize that some of our product enhancement ideas are excellent and some are worthless—and that this is normal and healthy (humility is a product management virtue). The critical part is establishing a discover and delivery process that separates the winners from the not-so-interesting.

A discovery and delivery process gives us confidence that we will be asking our development teams to release products that have good upside and minimal market risk. This process also gives us an answer to executives who stop by our desks with their favorite product idea, expecting it to be developed. Either their ideas will excel in the discover and delivery process or will fade.

And this completes our ten-day course. Hope the steps outlined in the lessons will help make you a more strategic product manager, with far greater impact on your organization and its future product portfolio.

Reach out if you need help or just want to talk through some of these concepts.

I hope for the best in your product management work!

Todd Birzer


If you would like a copy of the e-book, Becoming a More Strategic Product Manager, email Todd Birzer at todd@kevolve.com.



Recommended book

Radical Focus: Achieving Your Most Important Goals with Objectives and Key Results by Christina R Wodtke and Marty Cagan


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