Avoidable mistakes novice product managers make – Part 2

By Shrinath V|14th Mar 2013
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This is the second article in a three part series.

Image credits: mkrohne, Flickr
Image credits: mkrohne, Flickr

Product management roles are critical, as companies have a lot of revenue riding on products. While hiring for these roles, companies look for a combination of domain knowledge, customer orientation, program management thinking, creativity and capability to interface with other functions. In the first part, we looked at the mistakes novice product managers make. Here are a few more:

Mistake 4: Trying to satisfy everyone

Even after you have built your product roadmap, you will receive numerous requests for feature modifications from various functions. Marketing may ask for enhance a key selling point so that they can pitch better. Sales may ask for a lower pricing variant for a different consumer segment. Your development team may realize that plans laid earlier need changes. There will be priority bug fixes to handle along with new feature requests. The reality is: time and resources are finite. Feature requests aren’t.

A product manager needs to know when to say no to requests, and what to say no to. As a novice, this is often difficult: almost everyone around may have been in the project longer. You may have reached out earlier for advice to many of them, and may not have the confidence to back up your viewpoint. The downside risk is probably the highest for this. Most products falter during development because the requirements keep changing or new requirements are added. Product shipment is delayed. This may result in your being late to the market, or significant revenue losses.

You may be tempted to try building a consensus opinion on decisions. While that works in some situations, it may lead to slow and leaderless decision making, affecting the end product.

Tip: Review and keep in mind the top three features of your product for your target segment. Spend time on refining these, instead of adding new features that offer only incremental benefit.

Mistake 5: Getting too emotionally attached to your idea/product

Most popular literature advises that passion is a necessary ingredient when you’re building products. That’s certainly true.

Before the glory of a successful product launch, you have to face innumerable days of planning for the future, and staying committed to the end result all through. That’s not possible without having a passion for the product. But there’s a difference between being passionate and being emotional that most novice product managers do not realize. Being passionate means that you’re planning for the success of your product, but are flexible enough to incorporate other viewpoints. Passion is inclusive and inspires others to give their best.

In contrast, being emotional results in trying to control the process too much and attempting to get people to always accept your point of view. You risk repulsing other ideas, and people washing their hands off – let him/her handle the mess, I tried to advice but s/he did not take it.

If you’re extremely emotional, you believe that product cannot fail, discounting possibilities that things can go wrong. When things go wrong (and they will!), you expend energy agonizing about why things are not working out, instead of facing the reality, making new decisions and moving on.

Tip: Learn to pause when you are in the middle of your activity and take an impartial look. If it seems everyone else is ‘not getting it’, you probably need to evaluate your emotional response to the process.

Mistake 6: Panicking when things go wrong

During any product development process, you will encounter items that do not go according to plan. Some of that might be due to a mistake that you are accountable for. How do you react?

As a product manager, you’re often steering a ship, even if that’s just struck an iceberg. Panic can ruin everyone’s confidence and result in ruinous decisions. Seasoned product managers have a mental plan of what could go wrong in situations, and have thought through what they could do. There are extreme cases that you may not be able to avoid, but if you have thought of eventualities other than success, you can start putting an alternate plan together to get out of the mess.

The worst, but easiest mistake to make at this time: starting a post-mortem of why things went wrong and who was responsible. Resolve the problem first. Do the post-mortem later.

We will continue exploring more elements that could be pitfalls in the product management process in the last installment of the series. Feel free to let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

The author can be reached at shrinath@yourstory.in or @shrinathv.

Also read: Avoidable mistakes novice product managers make - Part 1

Avoidable mistakes novice product managers make - Part 3

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