First 30 Days as Product Manager
Feeling a bit overwhelmed and not sure where to begin?
Don't worry, we've all been there as new product managers!
While each product is unique, presenting its own set of challenges, some action items are common in helping make the most of our first 30 days. Here is a guide I wish I had on my first day as a Product Manager.
Understand the Product
Don't succumb to the pressure of delivering items as soon as you join. Team members may have a list of items ready for you to make decisions on, pushing you to make blind choices. Take a step back and spend some time learning more about your product first. Explore the product features, functionality, user experience, target audience, and user feedback. Speak to the development, customer support, and sales teams along with other stakeholders to understand the product's strengths and weaknesses. Internalize who the customer is and how your product creates value for them.
Make use of all the documentation your team has maintained to understand the product strategy, vision, and prioritized roadmap. Revisit your value proposition to align your thinking with what the product aims to achieve in the long run.
Be inquisitive and ask questions; there is no better way to learn. You may discover certain things weren’t well thought out initially - take that as an opportunity to revisit the whiteboard and question initial assumptions. In other cases, you’ll find validation for your ideas and the confidence to steer the team in the right direction.
Add Your Fresh Perspective
You haven't seen this product before or used it extensively, and that gives you a unique opportunity to identify areas for improvement and highlight key value-delivering features. While teams may have accumulated a lot of experience over time, this fresh perspective can only be provided by someone new to the team. Embrace your unique viewpoint and leverage it to bring a fresh set of ideas and insights to the table.
Challenge assumptions that may have become ingrained within the team or organization. Encourage critical thinking and question existing processes, strategies, and assumptions to identify areas where your unique perspective can introduce positive change. Remember, respectfully questioning the status quo can lead to valuable discussions and improved outcomes.
Building strong relationships with your team and stakeholders is essential for success as a product manager. Take the time to introduce yourself to key people, including members of the development, sales, and marketing teams. Schedule one-on-one meetings with each team member to understand their perspective on the product and how you can work together to achieve your goals.
Don’t forget that you are dealing with humans here. Get to know what motivates them, what experiences they have had, and what inspires them. You’ll be surprised to see how useful this personal connection will be in getting your buy-in for your ideas and getting things done overall. It will also help you to better understand their needs and concerns, which can help you to make better decisions.
Define Your Goals
It's important to define your goals to know exactly what you want to achieve by the end of a month or a quarter. When you know what the finish line looks like, it is much easier to race and reach it. Ask yourself what your short-term and long-term goals are. What are the key performance indicators (KPIs) that you will use to measure your success? Work with your manager to define your goals and make sure they align with the company's overall strategy. Once you have defined your goals, create a plan of action to achieve them.
By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail - Benjamin Franklin
It is easy to lose track of the bigger picture when you are new and overwhelmed with all there is to do. Having clearly defined goals will help you to stay focused and prioritize your work effectively. It will also help you measure progress and make adjustments as needed.
Embrace a Learning Mindset
Finally, it's important to always be open to learning new things. Stay curious and seek opportunities to expand your knowledge. While you may have a strong understanding of your domain after all your research, in this ever-evolving world, there is always something new to learn, whether it's changes in customer preferences, technological advancements, or updated regulations.
You may feel embarrassed about constantly asking questions from your team and might have the urge to pretend that you understand everything. However, being candid and accepting your limitations is the only way to acknowledge that there are gaps in your knowledge. It's this recognition that will push you to learn and grow.
In addition to learning from your team, seek other learning opportunities such as attending relevant industry events, reading industry blogs, and engaging in conversations with thought leaders. By going beyond the team’s knowledge base, you are better able to bring new ideas and insights to the table, fostering an environment of innovation and growth.