David Tuite

Product Manager: Level 2

July 05, 2017

After 6 months in my new role as a Product Manager, I feel like I’ve had an epiphany and discovered a new level of value I can add to my company.

Level 1 felt like I was being instructed to perform certain (relatively complicated) tasks. A cycle would begin when my manager would give me goals which were aligned with the business objectives. A goal could be to guide the team as they add a large feature to the product I manage, ensure a certain feature is used by the teams that need it or perhaps coordinate a well-described cross-team effort.

Once pointed in the right direction, I would figure out a path towards accomplishing said goals and then execute as needed. That could mean writing documents, shuffling backlog items or setting up meetings. Usually a combination of all of the above.

Now that’s all fine and dandy and certainly valuable to the business. I was performing a number of valuable services which I would claim led to value creation. It’s all unidirectional though. Decisions were made up in the air somewhere and handed down for me to execute on.

Recently I feel like I’ve identified a new type of value I can add which has taken me to the second level of my development. For the first time, I’ve started handing goals up. This process is the other half of the product management loop (I hope).

Feeding information skyward usually starts by observing something about the ecosystem in which I operate. It could be a learning about where the market is going, or where customers have a huge pain point, or how the ecosystem is changing in a particular way.

Once I’ve identified a suspected gap, I’m able to gather enough information about it to know (roughly) the value of plugging it. This usually means talking to a bunch of people who are in the related space to get their opinions on whether or not there is actually a problem. Collecting data or testimonials. Basically learning as much as possible about the gap.

Once I identify the value, I’m also able to gather the right people together in order to figure out suitable solutions to the problem so that it can be costed in a usefully accurate way.

Combining these two steps allows me to feed information back up to the business so that better decisions can be made about where to go next or what work to do. This closes the loop back in and leads to a virtuous cycle of making better decisions about where to go and executing more efficiently towards a solution.

depicting the virtuous cycle of product management

David Tuite

Written by David Tuite who is a product manager at Workday and used to be a software engineer. You should follow him on Twitter