Principles of Product Management

Principles of Product Management


Peter Yang



I appreciate the author’s concise style, but this introduction to product that isn’t worth your time. Look elsewhere for a good introduction to product management.

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Key Takeaways

The 20% that gave me 80% of the value.

Principles That Define Great Product Managers

Take ownership. Don’t blame others, be the first to admit mistakes. It’ll help you build trust with your team and your stakeholders. Be humble, be first to admit how you contributed to the problem and what you’re doing to do to address it. Give credit to others when you achieve a milestone, recognise them in public. Take control of your emotions by recognising the warning signs, listening to their point of view and taking a few seconds before responding in a clear manor. Build strong relationships with stakeholders by listening, showing empathy and keeping them informed. Help others without expectation of reciprocation.

Prioritise and execute. Focus. Figure out what matters and focus on doing that well, don’t waste your time on anything else. Sharing your top 3 priorities for the week with others creates shared expectations and alignment. Do whatever it takes to accomplish your goals, no task is too menial or trivial for you as a product manager.

Start with why. Getting aligned on the why early can save disagreements. Your team should know why they’re building what they’re building. Make sure the team understand the customer problem you’re solving, and agree the goal metric together. Communicate the why to everyone on a regular basis. Keep your ‘why’ communications simple, short and specific to make sure people understand. Ask them to explain it back to you.

Find the truth. Your job is to find the truth, not to be right all the time. Focus on discovering the truth together (not finding it out and convincing people of it). Seek knowledgable people who are willing to disagree. Identify assumptions and unknowns and follow-up on them. Balance decision quality with speed. Differentiate between two-way doors (things that are easily reversible) and one-way doors (decisions that are hard to change). Disagree and commit: After a decision is made commit yourself and your team to execute on it.

Be radically transparent. Measure how often you care personally, and how often you challenge directly. Invest in other people’s success. Challenge directly: deliver feedback as soon as possible, give specific examples and make it about the work not the person. Empower others by making sure they understand the why.

Be honest with yourself. Set clear goals for yourself with success criteria and time constraints. Reflect on successes and setbacks to identify your strengths and weaknesses. Validate them by seeking feedback from others. Ask after important meetings and after you’ve worked with somebody for a while.

Product Development

Mission Vision and Strategy

The mission is why your team exists. The big audacious goal that inspires your team to succeed.

The vision is what the world will be like once you’ve made good progress toward the mission.

The strategy is how your team will achieve your mission and vision.

You’ll need to understand the 3 C’s before you can form them (your customer’s needs, your company’s goals and your competition’s products).

A great mission and vision: solves a real customer problem, inspires your team and helps people make decisions.

The core of strategy is focus, and most complex organizations don't focus their resources. Instead, they pursue multiple goals at once, not concentrating enough resources to achieve a breakthrough in any of them. Richard R.Rumelt

A great strategy has three components:

  • A diagnosis of the major challenges that are preventing you from achieving your mission
  • An overarching plan to overcome those challenges
  • A set of actions to accomplish the plan

Building a Product Roadmap

Break your strategy down into an actionable roadmap.

Creating OKRs helps your team transform strategy into actionable goals. It not only aligns and empowers them but also provides a way to measure progress. Objectives are the qualitative goals your team wants to achieve. Key results are quantitative measures of progress towards it. Aim to achieve 70% of your OKRs.

Roadmap components:

Overview: highlight your mission, vision and strategy before summarising what your goal metric is for the quarter

Objectives: are qualitative goals that you’ll focus on for the quarter (limit to 3).

Key Results: each objective should have one or more KRs.

Features: beneath each KR describe at a high level the features you plan to build to achieve it.

Prioritise objectives first, not features. Prioritise objectives that push forward the customer, business and vision all at once.

Prioritise features under each KR based on value and effort. Think about spreading your effort between quick wins, big bets and experiments.

Defining Product Requirements

The Product Requirements Document (PRD) captures the problem, goal metric and solution. Components:

Header: List key stakeholders and links to other documents

Problem: The problem, evidence for this being a problem, why it’s critical to solve.

Hypothesis: The goal metric and definition of success in a sentence

Metrics: List all the metrics you want to track, including input (levers you can pull to grow output) and output metrics (which you use to measure success)

Requirements: Define exactly what the product is in stories. As a (user type), when I (perform an action), then (this happens).

Design: Wireframes and designs

Launch plan: test groups, control groups, ramp up plan etc

The Press Release & FAQs

  • Works backwards from the customer problem. Keep customer-focused, outline the product's solution to the customer's problem.
  1. Header: Introduce the product and its launch date.
  2. Problem Statement: Describe the customer problem and the benefit provided.
  3. Customer Quote: Include a quote to illustrate product benefits.
  4. Solution Description: Detail the product experience.
  5. Call to Action: Guide customers on how to engage with the product.
  6. FAQs: Address common questions post-release.

Keep documents like PRDs and press releases short and focused. Start with the most important customer problem and solution (don't bury the lede). Review documents thoroughly to ensure clarity and flow. A press release may not be necessary for smaller features; a summary in the PRD may suffice.

Great Project Management

  1. Kick-Off: Start with a team session to walk through the PRD. Set clear milestones. Create a single channel for communication, work in the open and invite your stakeholders.
  2. Kick-Off → Dogfood: Communicate constantly, manage dependencies and address risks and blocks.
  3. Dogfood → Launch: Test rigorously and build a launch checklist.
  4. Launch → Retro: Celebrate the launch, monitor success metrics and hold a team retrospective.

Effective Communication

Effective communication is vital for product managers. Keep writing simple, short and specific. Start with the main point, and follow up with evidence. Write for your audience and ask people to review your work. Make your writing scannable, and use the active voice (e.g. ”We will grow users by”).

Meetings should have a clear purpose, have an agenda and keep them focused. Send notes afterwards.

Making Good Decisions

Decision making is a tradeoff between making the right decision, and deciding fast enough. Differentiate between two-way doors (things that are easily reversible) and one-way doors (decisions that are hard to change). Don’t compromise if you think you’re right, find the truth. Escalating can be more efficient than arguing back and forth.

Express your opinion and encourage disagreement. Bring discussions back on track by speaking about outcomes and customer problems. Encourage participation, but appoint a single decision maker.