“How To… Be An Impactful Product Manager”

In small business, every person, every resource counts. Every activity needs to make an impact on the business. If it doesn’t, stop it immediately. Course correct, identify and work on activities that help us reach our desired goals. If we don’t, we are simply wasting limited resources doing something of no value, which may have huge consequences on the business such as cash flow.

In small business, it’s always a race from the bottom.

Whilst the cusp of failure may not be as apparent for large business, I would hypothesize that a large business is equally concerned about the effective utilisation of resources.

In the context of Product Management, how might we become impactful as Product Managers?

One way I manage my effectiveness and to make sure that the work I undertake everyday has impact, is to create a simple weekly activity list.

This is NOT just any activity list.

This is a more focused list ensuring that every activity you intend to pursue will help you deliver on your product’s goals.

Its easy being busy and easy doing. But what is important is to link your day-to-day activities to strategy.

So the most important component of the list is the “why”.

When writing the list, interrogate yourself and describe why you will be pursuing the activities on the list. Thinking about the why will help you filter out activities that will not help you reach your broader product goals. It stops you from working on ‘stuff’ that won’t make any difference to your product and business. And more importantly, it will help you be crystal clear about what you want to achieve.

The type of information on the list:

  1. WHAT: The activity itself.
  2. WHY: Why have you decided to work on this activity.
  3. SO WHAT: What will completing this activity drive towards. In this section, link to one of the product’s strategic goals.
  4. WHAT IS SUCCESS: What’s the short term activity goal you need to meet to track your efforts and success?
  5. WHEN: A start and a completion date. This demonstrates how efficient you are.
  6. WHAT HAPPENED: This is an audit trail to prompt you of what occurred and guide your next steps.

Here’s an example of an item on my list.

Start Date Completion Date Updates
Doing: Write Rich Mironov Product Roadmap Workshop Description 4/08/2014 Started description | Sent to Rich for review
Why: Introduce a new training product using knowledgeable, experienced, high profile Product Management facilitator
Product Goal: Increase training revenue without investing in fixed resources
Activity Goal: Have material ready for launch by end of 11 Aug

The list can be organised by day so you know what you are working on each day. It can also be broadly organised by categories or themes. The categories may include:

  • Marketing
  • Annual Planning
  • Stakeholder Management
  • Product Operations

If you find you’re working on too many operational activities, you may want to re-consider where else your efforts may be more beneficial.

What types of activities should be on the list?

Typically, Product Management activities are derived from a Product Strategy. The Strategy is dismantled into projects with a series of tasks for a range of stakeholders. The Product Management tasks are what should be included in the weekly activity list, especially if they consume a significant amount of time to complete.

The types of activities that are on my list (which will be different to many Product Managers) include:

  • Consulting activity for specific clients.
  • Coaching sessions.
  • Business development meetings.
  • Business administrative work such as lease management.
  • Preparation of marketing material.
  • Significant website changes not just a word or an image change.
  • Sales calls I need to make.

My list is very specific so be specific about the activity. If you find yourself adding develop a new product to the list, it will not be as effective. It’s too broad.

As a Product Manager you may include these types of activities:

  • Update latest version of the Product Roadmap.
  • Create an agenda for Strategic Planning Workshop.
  • Obtain and analyse this week’s sales figures.
  • Test new functionality for feature xx before its release.
  • Seek approval from Manager before delivering Product Strategy to the Executive team.
  • Conduct 10 user interviews for new idea.

Also, don’t add everything that you need to accomplish to the weekly list. It’s a weekly list. Ask yourself if you will commit to completing the activity in the week.

Share the list

I share my weekly list of activities with my team. They know exactly what I intend to achieve for the week. It helps them also determine what they should be working on.

You may decide to share all or some of your weekly activities with your staff, your Manager and a broader Project team if you feel that it may provide them with information, context and

Sharing the list as a team also means that there is an opportunity to meet with your team, to determine if and how individuals are kicking goals.

How often should the list be updated?

Prepare a weekly activity list and update it on a daily basis.

Review the work from the previous week and determine how effective you’ve been.

Did you complete 80% of the items on the list or only 30%? Were you overly ambitious about what you intend to achieve or can you do more with the time available?

If there are items remaining on last week’s list, determine if you want to continue the activity this week. If you do, add it to the list for this week.

The benefits of having a list

My weekly list has worked a treat. It helps me focus my efforts on activities that help grow the business.

Here’s how the list may help you:

  • There’s a feel good factor to ticking off activities on your list. Who doesn’t like that!
  • Keeps you accountable to yourself and your team.
  • Helps you plan next week activities so that you are neither over or underestimating effort.
  • Learn if the work that you are undertaking actually has impact.
  • Ensure that your focus is right so that you make a dent on those goals.
  • Helps you celebrate success.

Lastly, creating this list shouldn’t be a long and onerous task especially if you know what you want to achieve. It takes me 15 minutes every Sunday evening.

Creating and working from this list will go along way towards making an impact on your product and your business. Happy list creating.