Reflecting on my career, the times I’ve found most challenging have been when that element of self-doubt has crept in… the ‘Am I Doing It Right?’ moments.
Product management is such a varied role, how can we find the focus and structure that we may have in other parts of our lives? There’s so much material out there and so many amazing people sharing how they’ve done it... but if it doesn’t feel like I’m doing it exactly how they are, am I doing it wrong?
Over time I’ve refined a checklist I can refer to and find an honest answer to ‘Am I Doing It Right?’.
I’m sharing these in the hope they might put your mind at ease in the same way they have done mine.
The most important thing to recognise is that it’s a process. If you’re not doing one, or all, of the below — don’t be hard on yourself. I often find my response to one or more of the questions isn’t where I’d want it to be.
Above everything, try to focus on continuous improvement. What will your team incrementally change next week, and the week after, and so on, to help improve your product practice and ultimately your product’s success.
Here are the questions I ask myself, and use to identify areas that could do with more attention:
Do we understand our customers?
It’s so important when joining a new team to make sure you understand who your customers are.
And make sure your whole team is talking to them regularly to uncover opportunities to solve a problem or pain point they’re facing.
Having a mix of qualitative and quantitative customer insights will help make decisions about where best to focus your time and effort.
Do we focus on measurable outcomes?
Ask yourself why your team is building the thing they’re building.
If you can’t link the ‘Why?’ back to an outcome you’re measuring, and a business impact that is achieved, is what you’re building really that important?
If your success measures are the number of features shipped, or story points delivered, read this short book. Once you’re clear on the outcome your team is aiming to achieve, you can start figuring out the work you need to do to achieve it, and what can wait till later.
Do we validate ideas and opportunities?
Do you test ideas with customers before committing to build them?
This could be as light touch as sketching something and walking through it with a customer, or you could be running a concierge experiment to see if a journey works for a handful of customers.
Experimenting with solutions before you build them helps you throw away more bad ideas, reduce waste, and ultimately keep the focus on the things that drive most value for your customers.
Do we optimise our feedback loops?
Do you regularly release small chunks of value?
When your feature goes live, do you collect qualitative or quantitative data on how it’s being used? Are you measuring its success? If not you risk building things for the sake of building things, otherwise known as getting into the build trap.
This checklist is an amalgamation of everything I’ve read, learned on the job, and gathered through working with the exceptionally talented people in the teams I’ve worked in.
There’s nothing groundbreaking in it, but hopefully you too can find some peace of mind in its simplicity.