3 Things Product Managers Owe to Internal Constituents

Product Managers Internal Constituents

If you’re a product manager, then you probably have a lot on your plate. Meeting deadlines. Making customers happy. Keeping your team on track…all while trying to stay one step ahead of the competition can be draining.

With everything competing for your time and attention, it’s easy to forget those inside of your organization who also depend on you, such as your delivery teams and internal stakeholders. Luckily, there are three things you can do to ensure all your internal constituents have what they need to be effective.

Communicating the Vision

One of the most important things you can do as a product manager is regularly communicate the product vision to your team.

Frequent discussions about the product vision help your product team understand the big picture problems your product is trying to solve and how their work fits in with the broader strategy. Increased clarity into long term goals and strategy empowers the team to make more informed decisions. In addition, it also helps them validate assumptions as to which product constraints they need to concern themselves with today and which can safely be de-prioritized.

A clear and concise product vision statement isn’t just a benefit to your product team; it can also benefit your entire organization.

A clearly stated product vision helps others in your organization better understand your product strategy. Internal constituents benefit from this oft-needed clarity on why some features are shipping now, why some features are shipping later, and why some features may never ship at all. Beyond that, sharing your vision also helps others in your organization understand how your product will contribute to your organization’s stated organizational objectives, which can help justify your organization’s continued investment in your product when funding becomes tight.
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Being Accessible to Your Team

The next thing that you can do to help both your team and your organization is to be accessible to them.

Sure, you’re already giving your team direction at your iteration planning meetings as well as giving them a great set of user stories to work from. But, no matter how well-written those stories might be, questions will inevitably arise.

Moreover, when those questions arise, it’s essential that you are accessible to support your team. But, this support can take many forms. Sometimes, this might mean providing answers and clarification to your team. Other times, it might mean providing just-in-time feedback during the iteration to ensure that everyone is on the right track or to offer a course correction before your team strays too far from the track.

But this accessibility extends to your broader organization, as well. In your role as a product manager, you’ll often need to lead discussions around your team’s progress with your stakeholders. This might include sharing the progress your team has made recently or painting a picture of the progress you expect them to make in the future.

You’ll also want to frequently share your team’s strategy and roadmap with other functions in your organization as well as proactively anticipate any questions others might have about that strategy. Making your roadmap available can help other teams in your organization, such as sales and marketing, better plan for how they might support your strategy as it’s delivered.

Fostering the Involvement of Those Around You

As product managers, we often consider ourselves the lynchpin that holds the competing concerns of business, technology, and design together. And while this certainly is true, we don’t have to shoulder this burden alone.

Great product managers involve their teams in any key decisions that might affect those teams as well as solicit their feedback on their product strategies. This involvement deepens your entire team’s understanding of your product strategy as well as helps them become more vested in your product’s ultimate outcome.

One way to accomplish this is rather than simply bringing solutions to your team to implement, consider bringing problems to your team, instead. As product managers, we often fall in love with not only the problem but the solution, as well. This often leads to us driving the solution to completeness before involving our team in the definition of that solution. However, your team likely has a more in-depth knowledge of their chosen technology stack than you ever will. For this reason, it can be helpful to lean on your team’s expertise when defining your solution.

Involving your team in the definition of the solution that they will ultimately be asked to build not only helps them become more vested in that solution, but it also increases the likelihood that your team will bring new and novel ideas to the table that you might never have considered on your own. However, once you’ve defined the solution in collaboration with your team, it’s important to give your team the latitude they need to decide how to best implement that solution for themselves.

Great designers and developers don’t want to be mere order takers. They want to use their brains, and it’s up to you to give them the space to do so. However, this doesn’t mean that you have to give them complete creative license. Work with your team to collaboratively set boundaries that everyone can agree on. This will ensure that everyone has a shared understanding of how much freedom your team has to make decisions independently and at what point they must involve you. This will give you the reassurance that you can retain the control necessary to deliver a successful outcome while also giving your team the confidence they need to move forward without fear of overstepping their bounds.

But you can also extend this involvement to your broader organization. One of the most obvious ways to do this is to be sure that you invite all relevant stakeholders to your product reviews. Doing so can help you be sure that you’re getting the feedback you need from inside of your organization before launch, and prevent any unexpected surprises after launch. However, between these reviews, you’ll also want to actively solicit feedback from others in your organization about your current strategy and vision for your product’s future. This feedback can create opportunities for collaboration with similar products inside of your organization as well as uncover relevant opportunities that you previously weren’t aware of, such as the opportunity to add value to a new customer or to help improve the chances of an upcoming deal.

And finally, socializing your product strategy throughout your organization can also help reduce the chances for conflicts with similar products within your organization. As a result of this increased awareness, you’re more likely to uncover opportunities where your product and those similar products can complement one another, rather than compete.

Enabling the Effectiveness of Those Around You

As a product manager, keeping your customers happy and delivering value to those customers is your number one goal. But you can’t achieve that goal if you’re not giving those around you what they need to be effective.

However, by following the three steps outlined above, you can be sure that you’re doing everything you can to set both your team and your entire organization, up for success.