5 Important Ways Product Managers Can Refocus on Goals in 2020

Kirsten Schierholt

Kirsten Schierholt
Marketing Operations Analyst at ProductPlan

Unless your product management stack includes a crystal ball, all those goals and resolutions we made way back in January likely didn’t take global pandemics, fluctuating economies, and social unrest into account. Every year is unpredictable, but 2020 has been truly outdoing itself.

That said, we’re at the halfway point, so it’s a good time to check in on what we set out to accomplish six months ago and what we can realistically shoot for during the rest of the year.

Assess What has Changed So Far

Let’s begin this process by reflecting and reviewing.

  • How did you do against your first-half goals? While circumstances were disrupting, many businesses adapted quickly, and some have even thrived during these events. If things fell short, were outside events to blame, or was a more traditional internal delay or breakdown to blame?
  • Did your roadmap change? It doesn’t take a virus to derail a roadmap. Still, it’s possible that corporate priorities shifted, resources were cut or reallocated, or customers demanded urgent updates that put previously scheduled items on hold. If things got moved around or shaken up, did you do a great job of communicating those changes and their underlying causes?
  • Were KPIs met? User behaviors changed a lot since January, so many of the key metrics companies and product teams care about have also been impacted. Evaluate how much progress was made and examine how the underlying assumptions they were based on might have changed.
  • Were customer relationships impacted? Some customers became more reliant on products and services, such as delivery services and telecommunications, while others went dormant or fell out of favor, such as travel apps and rideshares. What was your product experience and how did it change the communication between customers and the company. Were you still able to reach them for feedback collection and onboarding sessions?

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5 Important Ways Product Managers Can Refocus on Goals in 2020

Whether your product made a significant pivot or increased its usage of asynchronous communication tools and video chats, the new “normal” means we’re checking in on your goals for the second half of the year.

Here are five important ways product managers can refocus on goals for the rest of 2020.

1. Take action

The last six months had plenty of opportunities to sit back and adopt a “wait-and-see” approach to things. But the second half of 2020 is all about maximizing the opportunities we still have.

Going into this year, the number one thing product managers wanted out of 2020 was finding a clearer purpose and company strategy. It’s time to break free from analysis paralysis, make the hard decisions, and begin executing.

With a healthy dose of ongoing measurement and recalibration, product teams should be confident in taking actions with the information they possess and not standing pat.

2. Regular roadmap reviews

Whether you’ve been diligently maintaining your product roadmaps or they’ve fallen by the wayside while you put out fires, it’s time to get back to fearlessly checking in and updating them regularly. Use the lens of trying to identify what’s changed or been impacted by outside factors to inform your editorial process.

Be sure to check in with stakeholders to assess whether they’ve changed their priorities, modified goals, or revised measurable targets. It’s also an opportunity to incorporate recent user feedback and requests coming out of sales and customer support to see if the prioritized themes and initiatives still line up with current demands and requirements.

An outdated product roadmap is never a good thing, but more so than ever, it’s likely that at least some elements are no longer a match for the current strategy and market conditions.

3. Reassert your leadership

The sudden shift to remote work and ongoing uncertainty about, well, everything might have caused you to step back a bit from the spotlight. Now that the dust is settling, it’s time to claim (or reclaim) your visibility in the organization as a visionary product leader and shake off that lingering case of imposter syndrome.

Use all-hands meetings, virtual lunch-and-learn sessions, and other channels to put yourself and your product roadmap out there to remind everyone of what you’ve learned and what’s coming down the pike. It can also help reinvigorate some staff that has just been going through the motions, motivating them with the exciting opportunities that lie ahead for your products.

Don’t make it a one-way street, either. Take these opportunities to listen and welcome internal feedback as every part of the business has been affected by current events. They might have some powerful and valuable insights to share with the product team.

There are still plenty of cases where saying “no” is the prudent thing to do. Don’t be afraid to do so—even when things are still in flux—if the request doesn’t align with the current strategy or priorities.

Yet it’s also vital to exercise empathy. Not everyone has experienced recent events in the same way, so don’t assume your ordeals match those of your colleagues or customers. Some folks have experienced minor inconveniences, while others have been through unfathomable losses, financial turmoil, and stress. Others might have even quit or been let go from their product management jobs.

4. Expand your horizons

Being at home for months on end can make anyone crave the company of others. But for product managers, it also has awakened a need for community that might have otherwise been overshadowed by the social interactions provided in an office environment.

Yet, no matter how much you like your developers or can bond with the sales team, none of them can fully relate to your professional challenges. Joining an online product management community may not be as much fun as grabbing beers after work, but it’s a unique opportunity to share and learn from each other. Bonus: you get an extra dose of networking when conferences and the like are on hiatus.

While you’re at it, don’t be shy about signing up for one of the many virtual conferences being held on topics of interest. While you may not come home with a swag bag full of T-shirts and USB drives, you can still learn some things and make new connections.

5. Invest in yourself

“Self-care” has received plenty of attention recently. It’s way too easy to work all the time when the commute is measured in footsteps instead of bus stops or exit ramps. But your mental health is not something to take for granted.

Add a soundtrack to your solitary work-life by creating a playlist, diving into podcasts, or even planning a vacation. You may not need your passport for a little longer, but there are plenty of local and regional attractions worth exploring. Plus, it gives you something to look forward to and a legitimate reason to unplug for a bit.

Education is another worthy endeavor for these tumultuous times. There’s no shortage of webinars, online courses, and books to help you master new skills and explore new things.

Rolling with the Punches for the Rest of the Year

This year has required more grit, perseverance, and patience than usual. But it’s also caused many of us to reexamine what’s most important in our lives and discover we were capable of far more than we believed. Some of us have thrived, some of us are just barely hanging on. Either way, we’ve become more resourceful and flexible almost overnight.

Our professional and product aspirations for 2020 are still there, even if they’ve deviated a bit from January 1st. Let us know how you or other product managers refocus on goals on LinkedIn, we’d love to hear from you.

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