Running around, getting things done, staying on top of your to do list, too busy to stop and think about how we work not just what work we do. Sounds familiar.
Taking time to stop and think about taking a more deliberate approach to our practice of being product managers is time well spent.
Calling it a practice is important. It implies that we approach it in a considered and consistent way in an attempt to get better.
I’ve written previously about being more reflective in our practice, and I think being reflective is part of a good practice, but there is a lot more to it.
Good practices are effectiveness multipliers. They provide a frame for approaching work, start conversations, offer a fallback in times of uncertainty, and justify the professionalism of product management.
There are things to learn from other endeavors such as sports and music where practice literally means focused repetition of the things you want to improve on, and art where an artist’s practice involves them developing their own ways of working.
So what might a good product management practice look like? Given my definition of a Product Manager being a balancer of risk and opportunity, I think any definition of a practice needs to have balance in it. Rather than a hard line of ‘this but not that’ it should create space around things for individual PM’s to evolve a practice that suits them (like an artist) but it needs enough definition and clarity to enable the deliberate practice of the things that make up the practice.
It might include:
- Repeatable but flexible – A good practice should have repeatable processes that the PM knows works for achieving certain outcomes but it should be flexible enough to choose how and when to apply a process, method or tool and to not apply any method.
- Consistent but with continuous improvement – Practices should be continuously reviewed and adjusted to improve but too much unstructured change results in instability and not being able to implement consistently.
- Reflective but action-oriented – Reflecting on what you are doing, why you’re doing it that way, and how its working for you is an important part of learning and improving your practice. But every practice needs more action than thinking. Practice is still about taking action and getting things done, just deliberately so.
- Independent but Shareable/Join-in-able – Practices should be standalone so they dont become entangled with other business processes but should be so other people can get involved, understand what you are doing and why, and add extra value.