Experimenting with your process

[ product-management  ]

I spoke recently with someone who was new to Product Management and was trying to learn how to do the job by reading blogs and books that talk about everyone’s ideal nirvana of product management. As he compared that with his organization (a large, well-respected company), he was distressed at the difference between what they saw and what they understood to be best practice. He was even debating if he should leave his current gig to work somewhere he could learn and practice this best-in-class PM craft.

My first comment was to not worry about doing it exactly how you read that they do it at the big giant tech companies, and I wouldn’t leave a job early to follow the greener grass. No company does it as well as they say they do in their blog post. PM is still figuring itself out as a role and not uniformly applied even inside the same company.

My second comment was that as a relatively junior line PM, he was in a great position to try and introduce some of the practices that he was reading about and try them out with their team. A line PM should be working very closely with a team of engineers and have really fast feedback on learning and trying new methods of doing things. You can try lots of ways to write user stories and acceptance criteria, experiment with how you facilitate sprint planning and reviews. Even working with your supervisor should be a relatively safe place to try structuring your roadmap or using a prioritization framework to communicate what you are planning and doing.

In some sense, your engineering team, boss, marketing, and sales counterparts are customers of your intellectual labor. You want to give them things that are useful and should be continually experimenting on how you can communicate intent more clearly. If you are working on short iterations of a few days to weeks, you have lots of cycles to learn on.

Don’t wildly careen from method to method, but you do have some wiggle room to iterate. If you don’t feel safe experimenting with these things, then maybe you should be looking for someplace else to work. Because if you can’t try a different format for writing a story, you probably don’t have a safe place to run bigger experiments on the things that truly matter about your product.

Written on August 27, 2021