How to make time for the strategic role of product management.
As a product manager, your days often fill up with responsibilities to support other departments. Strategic product management requires focusing on your duties, not everyone else's.
If you are your company’s subject matter expert that’s called into every product emergency, you know better than anyone that your company could benefit from strategic product management.
Are you the firefighter? Or are you preventing fires? 47% of product management time is spent in firefighting. We need to get better at preventing fires so we don’t waste so much time fighting them.
Product management drives objectives and key results by identifying and resolving friction.
To be an effective product manager, you need business savvy and expertise in the market. You need to represent your business and your customers.
Product managers listen to the market continually to understand unsolved persona problems and identify friction for those who buy and use the product. While ensuring that your work benefits your organization and your customers.
Strategic Product management focuses on finding problems for our products' buyers, users, and internal teams.
Product management touches every part of the organization—
Make time for product management
Well, here’s the problem. In a new role, your calendar is empty, and you start accepting meetings with pretty much anyone.
Before you know it, your calendar is a mess. Meetings scheduled from morning ‘til night. Multiple simultaneous meetings. Going from one meeting to another with no time to think.
Create a schedule to do the things you’ve committed to deliver.
In my first product management job, I was based in Virginia, and my product team was in California. Once a month, I went to California, leaving home on Monday morning and arriving by lunchtime.
I had meetings each day with different teams. We discussed new market insights and business initiatives, answered questions, and saw demos. I flew home on the red eye on Thursday evening and did my expense report and emails on Friday.
What evolved was a schedule like this:
One week I worked with development.
One week I scheduled sales calls and customer visits.
One week I went to our corporate headquarters and worked with marketing and other groups.
And finally, in the last week, I did everything I committed to in the other weeks.
When I tell this story, most people say they can’t schedule a week here and a week there. But perhaps you can block one day a week for each of these groups. The key is to also schedule some time for your duties.
Product Management Monday
Choose a day to focus on your duties. A few years ago, I declared Thursday as product management productivity day. But then I found Monday tends to work better for most teams.
Throughout the week, deal with meetings, fires, and other departments’ dysfunction. Then block all day once a week to get your work done. Or maybe you can’t block a whole day, so block a couple of half-days.
Make time for yourself first.
Do you know the story about buckets or rocks and sand? If you fill a bucket with sand, you won’t be able to put in many rocks. If you fill a bucket with rocks, there’s still plenty of room to add a bunch of sand.
Your calendar is the bucket. Your projects are the rocks. Other people’s meetings and projects are the sand.
Imagine if you could find just three more hours each week for your work!
Divide your time in a way that works for you.
There’s really no easy way to describe how many hours you should spend in any one activity.
To be effective, you’ll need to spend
some time with customers
some time with your engineering and content teams
some time with sales and marketing
some time with your leadership and stakeholders
Only you can determine how much.
You shouldn't spend more than twenty percent of your time with any one group.
If you are, then that group is understaffed. They need more subject matter expertise and more product knowledge.
That means the sales team needs sales engineers or field consultants. That means marketing needs its own subject matter experts. That means development needs designers with experience in the market and perhaps project managers as well.
How many other departments are hiding their headcount in product management?
Look for ways to empower under-skilled or understaffed teams.
Write articles, record some videos, create a frequently asked questions database.
Empower your development, marketing, and sales teams with context so they stay focused on solving persona problems.
So you can spend more time on your job: representing the business and the customer in product decisions.
Get your market facts.
Everyone with a product title needs frequent customer contact without a sales or support objective. You simply cannot manage products successfully without firsthand customer experience.
As they say, “Our opinions, while interesting, are irrelevant.” You won’t learn anything about the market and its problems while sitting at your desk.
Worksheet: Where Does Your Time Go?
IMPORTANT FOR MY JOB
Analyzing product data
Finding and analyzing product data including statistics and usage as well as development, marketing, and sales metrics.
Gathering market problems and product requirements directly from customers and potential customers using interviews, calls, and observation.
Too much Too little
Ensuring leadership commitment
Using business deliverables such as plans, roadmaps, and financial models to get resources allocated to the product.
Describing problems with team
Articulating and sharing product requirements and stories with technical teams such as engineering and development.
Designing solutions with team
Specifying features to be built using methods such as prototyping and story mapping.
Sharing on-going product status with stakeholders such as leadership, sales, and marketing teams.
Describing plans with marketing teams
Providing product information for go-to-market planning with launch and marketing teams
Sales support (sales engineering)
Helping individual prospects with product knowledge and subject matter expertise.
Helping individual customers with product knowledge and subject matter expertise.
Download our free eBook to learn more about the business role of product management.