The intersection of strategy + execution = success

Don’t let anyone else tell you that there isn’t a formula for success!

Well… there certainly is one formula for success in Product Management.

Many folks ask me, how do I transition into Product Management from XYZ? Most people who asked me this a year ago before I transitioned into Product Management from Engineering, my answer was:

“Be more strategic. Have good product sense.”

However, I now have an amended answer.

“Be more strategic. Have good product sense. AND don’t commit if you can’t deliver.”

Execution is the one important aspect of the role that probably gets overlooked the most. Many leave this detail out because its difficult to explain and hard to accomplish in reality.

A LOT of people are really good at thinking strategically. It’s the exciting part of the job to work on and it feels really important because, it is just that; it’s the overarching vision of your company and your product, the one thing that YOU as a Product Manager are hired for. So naturally, everyone talks about being strategic.

As a Product Manager, you are truly the “glue” of the company.

You will fill in team gaps where skills don’t exist. When the team has a problem that needs to be fixed and no one else can fix it, you are likely going to be called upon to find a solution.

UX needs a review on this GUI but the UX person is not here? Let’s ask PM.

Marketing needs some technical collateral, but engineering cannot build presentable slide ware? Let’s ask PM.

Sales needs to know how to position the product with customers, but Marketing doesn’t know the caveats. Let’s ask PM.

You get the picture.

You are an important piece of the puzzle, but you are also human.

You have finite bandwidth and capacity to help the team and you will invariably be stretched in many directions. The key skill is how to prioritize your time for high value tasks.

In developing the product roadmap, you won’t be able to address every complaint of the customer, so you have to prioritize your backlog. Likewise in executing with the product team, you will be called upon in times of need, but you won’t be able to address all aspects, and you’ll have to make judgement calls which ones you need to address, and which ones you should delegate.

Where many PM’s fall short is where they cannot execute and drive their team to overcome these little everyday challenges and ultimately fail to realize their vision and strategy. What ensues is typically that the product will falter in one or more dimensions:

  1. Timeliness (Is what you built on time to meet the need before a competitor solves it?)
  2. Impact (Is what was built going to make a dent on the universe?)
  3. High Quality (Is what you built sustainable over time or will it collapse on its own technical debt?)

The best way to learn how to become a Product Manager is to ask other Product Managers when they’ve succeeded, and when they’ve failed. You’ll get a lot of good stories in both directions.

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