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A Product Person's Guide to Improving Your Product Org - the Non-Leader Edition.
This week's topic: Exploring strategies to use effective communication to improve your product team(s).
“What are some ways I, as a product manager not in a leadership position, help the rest of my company buy into the value added from our product teams?”
Imagine your org as an orchestra. The product managers are the conductors, harmonizing various sections to produce a masterpiece. But what if the orchestra doesn't quite understand the conductor's role, the conductor lacks the necessary resources, or the different sections aren't playing in sync?
It can result in a disaster, far from the magical symphonic experience we hoped for. This analogy reflects the challenges faced by many of our product orgs. As an individual contributor myself, I would love to cover how product folks in a similar situation can navigate these challenges and contribute significantly to building a better-functioning product organization.
Clarifying Roles and Responsibilities
First, let's discuss the clarity around roles and responsibilities. Addressing this knowledge gap is essential if the organization does not understand what product managers do.
As a product person, you can do this by:
Educating your peers: Share articles, host workshops/discussions, and/or organize informal chats to explain the role of a product manager with team members outside of your department. The goal is to help your colleagues understand your responsibilities, your decisions, and how you contribute to the overall organization's success.
Fostering open communication: Be proactive in discussing your role in projects, your decision-making processes, and how your work aligns with the organization's objectives. This open dialogue helps in mitigating any misunderstandings and confusion.
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Ensuring Adequate Resources
Secondly, the scarcity of resources can pose a significant hurdle. This issue isn't just about budget constraints but also about the time and data access necessary for effective product management. It can limit the product manager's ability to innovate, strategize, and make informed decisions.
Here's how you can tackle this issue:
Advocate for yourself: Show your leadership team the direct correlation between your needed resources and the product's success. Share case studies, research, or even anecdotal evidence to support your case.
Prioritize ruthlessly: Use a strategic lens to focus on the most impactful tasks. This will ensure that the limited resources available are put to the best possible use.
Gaining Leadership Buy-In
Next, let's discuss the importance of securing leadership buy-in. This is not just about having resources allocated but also about getting the necessary support and understanding.
You can improve this by:
Showcasing the value of product management: Quantify the impact of your work whenever possible. Use metrics to demonstrate how your role positively affects the organization's bottom line.
Soliciting regular feedback: Seek constructive feedback from leadership. This shows your willingness to improve and keeps the leadership team invested in your role and the product's success.
Aligning with Other Teams
Finally, creating alignment with other teams is vital. Remember, product management is a team sport. The work doesn't exist in a silo, and building a successful product is a collective endeavor that demands consistent coordination and synergy among different teams like engineering, design, and marketing.
To better this and improve alignment across the org:
Foster cross-team collaborations: Regularly organize meetings with other teams to discuss upcoming projects, current obstacles, and shared objectives. It can help cultivate a sense of unity and shared ownership of the product.
Involve relevant teams early on: Include other teams in the decision-making process from the initial stages. It reduces the chance of misunderstanding and fosters a spirit of collaboration.
The challenges facing product management in an organization—unclear roles, lack of resources, insufficient buy-in from leadership, and misalignment with other teams—are not insurmountable.
By taking proactive steps like educating peers, advocating for resources, demonstrating the value of product management, and fostering alignment with other teams, non-leader product managers can navigate these hurdles and contribute to a more effective and well-functioning product organization.
Remember, change starts from within, and as product managers, you have the potential to orchestrate it.
Have an interesting story about your approach to improving how your company does product? Leave a comment and tell us about it.
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