Strategy Hat — The Chess Player

“How do I predict the next 5 steps to influence the outcome that will help achieve the customer and business goals?”, if that’s the question hovering your mind, it’s time to wear your Strategy Hat.

Wearing this hat will help you take a holistic view on the business to understand customer needs, market conditions, stakeholder expectations, competition strategy and then device a plan for your product to grow.

But how exactly do you understand the market and user conditions?

It’s simple — Befriend the data!

Once you start making sense from the available data, you-

  • Start understanding the pain points of customers and use it while working on the design
  • Keep a check on the latest trends in the industry
  • Keep an eye on what the competition is doing
  • Realise the customer’s emotion towards your product

While you largely rely on a balanced qualitative & quantitative data and gut feeling but as a PM, you must be careful during the time you interpret the data. Misinterpretation may change the direction of the roadmap and instead of solving a problem, you might just end up creating a new one.

While you overlook the needs, wants and desires of the customers, you must also look into the needs of the stakeholders. Multiple stakeholders may come with requests, how do you prioritise? Here’s how-

  1. Force them to justify their requests
  2. Ask them to back their request with data

Ensure that you are absolutely convinced about the request before you commit.

Typically, the Strategy hat may be the most ambiguous hat. You remain confused whether you have the written support of the stakeholders or not. You expect a written/formal procedure or be outright told that the strategy is supposed to be set by you. The reality is that it never happens. You need to develop the skill to influence, manage and direct the stakeholders (upper management, peers and dev teams) in the desired direction.

But here’s a breather for you — you don’t have to set a strategy independently, it’s not a 1 man show — it’s a team effort. Even CEOs of companies are beholden to shareholders, partners, and even the interests of employees. Your role is to influence the overall strategy towards the intended direction and to provide a clear roadmap for the team to execute.

A PM must maintain a track record of feature launches and releases. Without this, one becomes less and less effective at wearing the other hats. This does not mean having a record of launching big fancy products. It is more about showing a series of successes and having a mix of product features, tech debt, dev-op improvements, etc.

Moreover, execution is important. It impacts the strategy and direction of the company. You may get the right idea through data or find it on the internet or seek influence from someone else’s strategy — but the execution solely depends on you and your market environment, customers, size and capabilities of the company. The way you devise your plan will create all the difference.

A Tip (if you wish to take it): When you enter a discussion or debate with other stakeholders, it is ok to surrender in 9 out of 10 battles if you can conquer the 1 battle that has the greatest value. You can win this by clearly stating the needs and wants of the customer.

A PM must act like a mini-CEO or the CEO of the product. I am not sure how much I believe in this statement but one thing is for sure — the PM must be a leader. As a PM, you cannot wait for someone to give you formal ownership of your product, you need to drive the product, with the customers being your central focus.

If I were to summarize the role of a PM in a sentence, I’d say — “A Product Manager is a product leader, who handles teams at a macro as well as a micro-level to achieve better customer satisfaction and drive the business value.

In your experience, which hats have you been wearing or not wearing as a PM? Please share your story if you wear a hat that is different from the ones mentioned in the blog and a few tips on how someone can excel wearing that hat.

Originally published at .

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