If there was one skill you should bring into 2023 as a product manager, it’s resilience. Resilience is the capacity to withstand, recover and adapt. And while there’s no one way PMs can all build resilience, there are paths and approaches to building resilience.
But first, what is a principle? It is something that guides us in how we perceive things and the decisions that we make. For example, if you have a principle to always act with high integrity and find a wallet full of cash, there isn’t a long time frame before you decide to find the wallet owner.
Product principles work in the same way. They help us make the right choices.
So, as we dive into the six principles for product managers in 2023, we’ll focus on how they’ll reduce our decision time and our decision fatigue and help us navigate any uncertainties this year will bring.
The content in this article is from a Product Chat featuring Kirsten Van Detta, senior product manager at LinkedIn >> watch the webinar
Product Principle #1: Embrace and Solve for Complexity
Product managers sometimes fall into the trap of repeatedly optimizing the product for one problem. We rarely find the time to look at the complexity that we live in.
As product managers, it is important to keep a pulse on the macro environment and understand the complexity of the systems in which our products exist.
Here are five macroeconomic factors you should follow or talk to the people at your organization who focus on these trends:
- Economic factors like changes to consumer and business purchasing power
- Political or legal factors like data privacy or security compliance. For example, the US Supreme court will hear arguments on Section 230 in July, which could significantly affect social media platforms and how we manage our websites.
- Technological factors like innovation and the evolution of artificial intelligence and machine learning.
- Ecological factors like supply chains and sustainability.
- Socio-cultural factors like demands for corporate social responsibility and meaningful work.
More importantly, how do all these macro trends affect your buyers?
As a product manager, it’s essential to consider how shifts in the industry, economic downturns, and user needs and behavior changes may impact your product. These changes can be especially significant in B2B, where budgets may be cut, and pain points may shift.
To understand these changes and adapt your product accordingly, it’s crucial to work closely with your sales and support teams and gather qualitative information about customer engagement and product usage. By staying informed about your users’ needs and behaviors, you can better understand any challenges you may be facing and work to address them.
For example, maybe your customer works in MarTech. Maybe there was a reduction in their team, so they have to do more with less. They probably have to quantify what they’re doing a lot more. What has changed? Are you still optimizing toward the pain points they faced in 2020 or 2021 as you’re going into 2023? The circumstances of their work could be much different.
It is also important for product managers to consider their internal environment and understand the complexity within their organization, including company culture, team dynamics, and individual motivations.
By embracing complexity and keeping a pulse on both the macro and internal environment, product managers can make informed decisions and adapt to unexpected changes.
Product Principle #2: Be Customer Intimate
You are customer intimate when you understand your customer’s problems end-to-end and holistically. By doing this, you can solve more of their problems and increase customer engagement, stickiness, and annual recurring revenue.
In 2023, businesses may be looking to cut costs by switching to more cost-effective solutions, and product managers who can offer holistic solutions may be more successful in retaining customers.
Being customer intimate wins your company loyalty and customer-driven revenue growth.
Product Principle #3: Don’t Lose Sight of the Long-Term
It’s easy to lose sight of the long term when we enter these periods of uncertainty. The waves are crashing against the boat, we’re going through choppy waters, and we think we need to change our strategy, but that’s not necessarily true.
In uncertain times, getting sidetracked and losing sight of long-term goals can be easy. To ensure that you are making a meaningful impact, staying focused on delivering the highest value possible is essential. This can help you avoid getting lost in minor updates and tasks that may not provide a significant return on investment.
One way to do this is by aligning your product strategy with your company’s purpose and vision and being mindful of the most valuable updates and improvements you can make.
Additionally, prioritization frameworks can be valuable for deciding what work to do first. It’s crucial to have supporting information to back up your choices and consider each task’s value and effort.
A common example of a prioritization framework is the value versus effort matrix, which allows you to identify high value, big bets, and quick wins. It’s also important to avoid prioritizing output over outcomes and consider your organization’s larger goals when deciding what to work on.
Product Plan is an example of a tool that can be used to prioritize work in a transparent way that involves the input of multiple stakeholders. This can be especially important for building resilience, as it helps ensure everyone is aligned and working towards the same goals. It may be particularly challenging to secure funding in the coming year, so it’s important to have well-supported arguments for why certain work is essential.
Product Principle #4: Take Time for Learning and Thinking
Setting aside time for thinking and learning and protecting that time by blocking it off your calendar is essential. This can help you reflect on and process what you have learned, which can improve your performance in your job.
It can be challenging to find time for this, especially when you have dozens of meetings consuming your time. The hardest part for PMs is to make the time for this type of work. You might feel like you can’t. Someone might book over it but if that happens, move it. Make it non-negotiable. You can also consider setting aside time in the morning to think and reflect or taking a walk to allow your brain to process and connect ideas.
For example, maybe you’ve had a particularly tough conversation or stakeholder interaction from the day before. Sit and think about it. Not just what you could have done differently or better, but put yourself in their shoes, so the next time, you connect better.
Product Principle #5: Actively Engage Stakeholders to Align Early and Often
This might seem obvious, but here’s the reality: in the best of times, you want to align early in often, but that’s especially true in the worst of times.
This is important for building resilience because it helps ensure that everyone is working toward the same goals and that there is strong trust and connection among team members.
When you inevitably have to say no to requests, it’s essential to do so in a way that considers the larger goals and objectives of the person making the request and to explain the reasoning behind your decision in a way that shows empathy and understanding. It’s also important to consider your decision’s potential consequences and be proactive in addressing any problems that may arise.
But helping them understand and bringing them along for the ride is how you can say a better no.
Product Principle #6: Build Trust. You First.
As a product manager, building trust is how you create a high-performing team and ensure the product is successful. You have to step back, look at everything around you, and understand that you are in the middle of ambiguity, uncertainty, and complexity.
To build trust, it’s important to honor promises and commitments, understand the needs of the engineering team, customers, and leadership, and be able to bring together various perspectives and goals to move forward. Trust is crucial for resilience in the product and as a PM. This job is tough because you have to know everything and be everything to everybody. And building trust starts with us.
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