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    The Product Manager’s RuleBook

    The Product Manager’s RuleBook

    This post is not about “tools” which will make you (integral)dx more productive. This post is about telling you rules of the Jungle called Product Management.

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    So you are the Product Manager, Right ?

    You just graduated out of B-School (or even worse completed your bachelors degree) and you have been given the product manager tag in the company you decided to work in. Welcome to the Jungle. Unless you have a really f**ed up CEO or a clueless CTO, you are in for a hell of a ride. There are a dozen of definitions of a Product Manager but, here is the one that sticks –

    You are the mini ‘CEO’

    Welcome to the Jungle. People don’t follow rules here. Especially when it comes to product. Here are 49 rules that I have curated, over the course of 7 years, across Product, Operations and Sales.

    Rules

    As a Product Manager, you will be exposed to attention, and a lot of it. Mostly unwanted and discomforting. Don’t be surprised if your peers are jealous of your role. You will get pulled into every meeting. You will looked upto/at for every release. For every feature. For almost every client meeting/call. But that is least of your worries. Unless you have been a PM before, your biggest challenge would be not having a benchmark. You have no way to draw the line. Follow these rules and you will stumble less- I am personally still trying to master the art.

    1. Get sold to the product. Believe in the product yourself. If you don’t, try again. If you still can’t make your self believe it, drop it and find something else.
    2. You will get sucked up in your work schedule. Be ready for it.
    3. Don’t get sucked up every time. At times, drop the bomb on Sales and Marketing. Reality check can never hurt
    4. Learn the art of saying no. At least in your head. Practice it over a period of time with/on your CEO, CTO, Sales and Marketing (in that order)
    5. Develop a healthy relationship with your developers, QA and designers.
    6. Avoid making value judgements. What are value judgements ? The statement that you say aloud in your head without ANY authority or reliable data to back it. You always know when you are speaking from the gut. (You know who else spoke from the gut ? George W Bush)
    7. Trust your developers. Back them up. Stand for them. Pat their back and give them credit.
    8. Bet on your Sales and Marketing. Support them. Be their favourite cheer leader. Always
    9. Keep some buffer from Day 0 itself on your delivery schedule. You are surrounded by uncertainties. Every client wanted “it” yesterday and no dev will have it ready by tomorrow.
    10. Split roles between you and your CTO. Decide, who will plan and who will drive the execution. Don’t fuck this one up. Don’t take planning, because you most likely don’t understand your dev’s code.
    11. Between your CEO, CMO and you, figure out who will OBSESS about “organic growth” (SEO). You don’t have bandwidth, don’t ever opt-in for this one.
    12. Coin and propagate your own product terminology/nomenclature, before sales “oversimplifies” it or dev “rocket-sciences” it. This is a critical to build and manage perception.
    13. Write emails with keywords that you can search. Chat with keywords that you can recall and search again. You will spend significant time in forwarding old emails to dev, sales, marketing, CEO. Skip the CTO. Your CTO barely opens your email.
    14. Park your personal choices of colors, fonts and design at home. Product is being built for customer’s delight, not yours (or your investors)
    15. Like a rhetoric, keep telling point #14 to your CEO.
    16. Get a Tee that says “Good is not fast and fast is not cheap.” Boring, cliche but still right.
    17. Pulling an all nighter for product release is cool and fun, but not if you are releasing thrice a week.
    18. Remember that you don’t understand quality assurance or testing. Like everything else, QA is a skill. Unless you have learnt it, avoid claiming it.
    19. If you are building a B2B product, you definitely need a QA. If you are building a B2C product, hell as sure you need more than 1 QA.
    20. Be friends with QA and Designer. Make them feel special. You won’t exist without them.
    21. Assumption is the mother of all fuck-ups. Under communication is an assumption. Hence, under communication is a fuck up. Over communicate and play safe.
    22. Build your own narrative as an objective and data driven person. Understand and question the objective before jumping into anything (including that market research slide for the investor deck)
    23. Document everything that is made and not made. At least try.
    24. Begin you conversations with developers and designers with context. They will feel involved, aware and productive. Context helps. Always.
    25. In the same breathe, demand context from Sales, Marketing and CEO. You will be able to address their requirement faster.
    26. You will always be able to sell better than your entire sales team combined. But again, don’t do it.
    27. Keep your Company Logo Product Logo, favicon, Product Description (1 liner, 5 lines and 1 pager) always ready. Anyone can ask for this. Anytime.
    28. Plan ahead for a week. Do so on a Saturday/Friday Evening. Do it on a Sunday night if you have to but NEVER on a Monday morning.
    29. CEO’s often talk sense. Listen to them.
    30. Not everything that your CEO said was actionable. Don’t act on everything that your CEO says. They most likely didn’t expect action themselves.
    31. Build your own opinion about the industry, domain, and the product. Attend conferences/events focused on your industry.
    32. CTO’s can/will have walls. Be inquisitive ( read pushy)
    33. You need to be aligned with your CEO, Sales, Marketing and CTO. Don’t forget your actual job (Mini CEO/Get-Shit-Done)
    34. There is nothing better than pen paper when it comes to maintaining lists. There is nothing better than pen paper when it comes to wire-framing.
    35. Don’t boil the ocean with every release planning. Every dog has his(/her) day. You will have yours on the day of bug bashing.
    36. Avoid falling sick. Exercise daily. Meditate daily. And buy a Macbook air
    37. Nothing will go wrong if you are late by two minutes late in sending that presentation/ releasing your product update. Be right and late rather than being sorry and on time. If your Sales team can’t hold for a client for 2 mins, imagine..Again, plan better next time and avoid being sorry.
    38. Next time, a Sales guy says that “it was you and your product” that costed him/her a sale. Gulp down your ego. Hear them out. They are ranting. The next day, give it back to them. Patiently.
    39. Your role needs you to seek feedback. Proactively. Ideally once a month, from all your peers. Similarly, your feedback for your peers is critical.
    40. Sales folks are hired for selling. They most likely, can’t make presentations. Live with this fact. Make a template for them. Engage your sales team by changing the template’s colours every 10th week.
    41. There is never a bad time for having chai/coffee. Though Obama doesn’t drink coffee. But again, you are not Obama.
    42. Content writing is NOT your forte. Nevertheless, write the copy for your website or someone else will write something that you never made/promised/planned. Rant about it, if you ever hire a content writer
    43. Create your own reports, dashboards and product performance benchmarks. Do this before the developers starts developing.
    44. Start your day with numbers of the previous day.
    45. Learn to let go, of things you like. Your favourite features, CEO’s favorite feature, colors, fonts, processes and evening dates.
    46. In hindsight, you will always be right. Move on.
    47. You job needs you to be a swinging pendulum. Hah. Self-Pity mode is awesome. But, don’t let it stretch for more than few hours
    48. Last but not the least, remember to laugh about that how, once upon a time, everyone including your head of sales, marketing lead, CEO, CTO and dev ops were clueless about the house of cards that “you” got “built”
    49. In the end, make your own list. And pass it on.

    Author – Vivek Khandelwal

    Founder of Datability Solutions, a technology startup building iZooto, a web push notification platform for user engagement and retention. 

     

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