Product Managers Must Be Inclusive
With over two decades of product expertise, Michael Sippey has managed product teams at successful startups and the world's largest tech companies. Product managers like to do it all, but it's in our best interest to bring more people in. Michael breaks down the importance of operating with inclusiveness to "share the wealth" and connect more effectively with customers.
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Through the years, I have conducted a deeply (un)scientific survey of product managers about stresses that affect their day-to-day. In doing so, I’ve found that the number one source of stress is that everyone else wants your job. Said differently, they also think that they can do your job better than you can.
You’re probably asking – how do I deal with this? My hack for mitigating “PM envy” is to share the wealth. Said differently, product managers should be inclusive and bring people into your product management function.
Even if you’re the most curious and empathetic product manager that’s ever been, you still can’t come up with every great idea on your own. In addition, product managers have to juggle a ton of responsibilities. So, in the case of people who want to take your job – why not give them a little bit of the action? At its best, product building is a team sport. Being inclusive opens the door to better collaboration – and ultimately frees you up to focus on the best parts of being a product manager.
To illustrate how inclusiveness can help product managers, I like to use Marty Cagan’s 10-question product opportunity assessment.
What problem are we solving?
Who are we solving it for?
How will we measure success?
Questions 1-3 are the primary responsibility for product managers. More so than any other factors, these will set the direction for your finished product. And of course, these are the most fun to take on!
How big is the opportunity?
What alternatives are out there?
Why are we best suited to pursue this?
How will we get this product to market?
What factors are critical to success?
Given the above, what’s the recommendation?
Questions 4-10 are perfect opportunities for bringing in others to manage. For example, the opportunity assessment is perfect for your sales and marketing team. The same goes for building a go-to-market strategy for the product – or finding an intern to focus on competitive analysis.
In summary, a big part of being inclusive is to force yourself to shut up. As someone who finds themselves talking all the time, I’ve come to understand that it’s okay to listen. As product managers, your job is to get the most out of your team. Ultimately, the ability to open up and operate with inclusiveness will endear you to your team and your customers – which in turn builds great products.