FUNDAMENTALS OF PRODUCT MANAGEMENT: THE PROCESSES

Managing product processes at scale through proactive communication

To manage several product teams at scale and in large organizations, it’s not enough to work with the core principles of product management and think that you’ve done enough to succeed. Success at scale requires proactive stakeholder management and communication of learnings.

Nima Torabi

--

Photo by Campaign Creators on Unsplash

As organizations scale, cumbersome structures, rules, and procedures that impede innovation and rapid experimentation tend to take over. These are mainly put in place to minimize risks at the operational level. To help deliver product agility and discovery, great product managers need to:

  1. Manage their key stakeholders
  2. Communicate their learnings
Photo by airfocus on Unsplash

1. Managing key stakeholders

Defining the ‘product stakeholder’

A team or individual can be categorized as your product’s stakeholder based on whether they have the power to veto your progress and/or prevent you from launching. This can usually entail the following list of people:

  • The senior leadership team
  • Business partners
  • Finance or whoever controls your budget
  • Legal and Compliance
  • Business development and sales

The role of the product manager

The product manager has the responsibility of understanding the considerations and constraints of the various stakeholders and bringing them to the product team. Furthermore, product managers need to go beyond the understanding and learning of their respective stakeholders’ constraints and concerns and convince them that the solutions they are working on will meet their needs and work for them. If product managers are unable to attain this level of trust with their stakeholders, then their progress will likely be halted or controlled.

Succeeding with stakeholders

Success in managing stakeholders for product managers can be defined as:

  • They respect you and your contribution
  • They trust that you understand their concerns and will deliver solutions that work for them
  • They trust that you will communicate proactively and keep them informed of important decisions and/or changes
  • They empower you to work with autonomy to solve their business problems

To attain the above, competent product managers need to have a deep understanding of their customers, analytics, technology, industry, and business. To get to this point

  • Great product managers have regular 1-on-1s with their key stakeholders to better understand their constraints and needs
  • Great product managers build collaborative and mutually respective and personal relationships with their key stakeholders, through weekly lunches and coffee meetups
  • Great product managers refrain from group meetings with many stakeholders and meet in 1–1s and private sessions to have more meaningful conversations
  • Great product managers do not show their solutions to stakeholders after they’ve built them
  • Great product managers have their key stakeholders involved during product discovery
  • Great product managers utilize high-fidelity prototypes to present their solutions rather than low-fidelity ones and/or presentations
  • Great product managers resort to data-driven facts and evidence rather than have opinionated discourse with stakeholders, especially senior ones with more power
  • Great product managers explain and onboard stakeholders who don’t understand what they are doing with patience and empathy
Photo by krakenimages on Unsplash

2. Communicating learnings

In smaller organizational settings, such as in startups, sharing of information and learning across teams happens naturally and quickly due to the small size of the group. However, as a startup scales, transparent and quick communication becomes more complex, resulting in growing interaction complexities.

To keep product communication and sharing of information alive across the portfolio of products/projects a big organization is managing, the Head of Product should hold a 15–30-minute all-hands-on meeting every week or two to highlight the bigger learnings of:

  • What worked
  • What didn’t
  • What was learned during various product discoveries, and
  • What will be done in the next sprint

If product managers desire to uncover any topic in more depth they can reach out to respective peers to learn more. Some tips on these meetings include:

  • Focus on tactical and cultural stories such as experimentation and product discovery and don’t describe details of sprints
  • Focus on what didn’t work and why and ask for ideas and help across the floor if no solution has yet been put forward
  • Invite members of other functions such as product marketing and/or sales and/or senior leadership based on the stories you have to share and educate them on how you work

--

--

Nima Torabi

Present: Audio & Video Ent. Group PM at Rogers Media | Former: Fintech Startup Founder + Exit, Ex-Strategist @[Samsung], and Venture Founder @[Rocket Internet]