Photo by Zoltan Kovacs on Unsplash

7 Steps to Build a High Quality Product: Introducing the Product Stairway

What’s a product manager? How does a product manager get shit done? And most importantly, WHAT DO I NEED TO KNOW TO BUILD AN AMAZING PRODUCT?

There are so many things a product manager (PM) has to work on and the responsibilities only grow the more senior you become. At the same time, there are 1001 different tools, frameworks and methodologies. When does each one come into play? How do they work together and who else is involved?

Let me introduce to you the PRODUCT STAIRWAY — it’s an attempt to bring together all the great things I have learned about and tried out in my time as a PM, and then visualize it, because a lot of humans are visual learners.

I do not claim that this is an extensive list and especially the details will vary depending on your company and product, but this can be a helpful guide to get closer to an amazing product and being an amazing product manager.

In this first article, I want to introduce the basic concept to you. Later, I will publish deep dives on the steps and the methodologies, frameworks and tools associated with them.

All of those have been created by other people and I will add as much helpful learning material and links as I can.

You can use this framework to guide you through the 8 steps to a successful product on a high level or give you very actionable to-dos for each step.

So, without further ado, may I present the PRODUCT STAIRWAY:

Whoa, that’s a lot!

Yeah, I know!

Let’s break it down.

  1. Each step depends on the step before, you should be able to relate back to the previous one.
  2. At the bottom, we have strategy and slowly work our way up to the day to day of a PM.
  3. Different parts are mostly based on certain methodologies, but that does not mean they cannot be used anywhere else.
  4. Timelines are a very rough suggestion, based on experience of stakeholders wanting deadlines and roadmaps and humans not actually being able to plan in a reliable way.
  5. People involved may vary, this is my personally preferred idea, but it highly depends on the org.
  6. As you progress your career you’ll likely move down the stairs, and have more fundamental influence on the product. For example, a junior PM will most likely work on the top two to three steps, while a senior will be creating a vision and goals.
  7. Stakeholders should be involved in some of the steps and be informed about others.
  8. Same with your cross-functional team, they need to be super involved & engaged in everything.

I know if you look at everything at once, your head starts spinning. Well, that’s not so different from being a PM.

Me on any given day as a PM:

Let’s remove a few items and get into the basics for now.

The steps should be fairly familiar if you’ve been in product for at least a little bit.

Everything is based on the mission. In real life, we usually do not get to set this step as PMs, but if you’re an entrepreneur you might very well create your company’s mission. A long-term strategic overarching goal, that you’d like everything happening inside your company to relate back to and pay into.

The next step is defining and evangelizing the product vision. Traditionally, part of the PM’s responsibilities. For clarity, I do not differentiate between PMs and POs, those two titles are the same in my book. You can read my rant about it here.

Themes are a collection of your goals, a category of sorts. They should have a clearly defined finish line just as your goals. The further up you get on that stairway the more detail-oriented your work should be. Set goals, explore as many ideas as possible, validate them and then transform some of them into actual projects.

In reality, steps get left out and our stairway gets crooked, there’ll still be a product at the top, just not always the most amazing one. Often, we also need to walk up and down those steps, nothing is set in stone.

And yes I am totally writing all the above to later on link all my posts back to this one, so you read ALL MY STUFF!

You might be at the intersection of business, tech and design, but you also gotta climb up those stairs.

or down…

Next time: Methodologies — Lean, Agile, Design Thinking


I am Lisa, a product strategist, team enabler and learning enthusiast, dabbling my feet into design and web development for funsies and an overall product nerd. Clap and share if you liked this. Thank you!