How to be a better Product Manager this New Year

BY JANNA BASTOW ON DECEMBER 30, 2014

With the start of a new year – like nearly every other human being on the planet – I have been struck by a spell of optimism and the spirit of self-improvement. And up there on the list is becoming a more awesome product manager.

As product people, we’re in the business of forming a new discipline. In 2014 the Mind the Product community learned a lot. From Dave Wascha encouraging product managers to be bold in decision-making, to Leisa Reichelt on how to change organisational behaviour, and ProductTank meetups focused on everything from change management to decision making, product thought leaders made leaps and bounds in defining our craft.

In the spirit of keeping that great movement rolling forward, here are five Mind the Product resolutions for product people in 2015:

1. See more customers

Customer testing should be the bread and butter of modern product management; not the cherry on the cake. This year, aim to work it into every step of your product process so that you can be confident your decisions are based on real customer feedback and data. Part of this leap is overcoming the taboo around testing as a timely, costly or bothersome process and just a natural part of what you do. John Dobrowolski has some guiding points on how you can make it happen.

2. Learn to be humble and play nice

The best ideas can come from anyone – colleague or customer – so resolve to give them a chance. If you’re convinced one of your own ideas has great potential then one of the most effective ways to get your team on board is to plant the seeds for them to discover it themselves. If it really is the best, then your idea will get the support it needs. Sure, you don’t get credit this way, but what you do get is a better product and a happier team. Let’s remember what’s important in 2015.

3. Kill more features

Product managers need to resolve to be ruthless. Even a small amount of time and resources spent on developing a feature can make it feel very tough to delete code. But being a feature hoarder has its risks – wasted money and dilution of your value proposition to name but a few. Dave McClure says we should kill one feature a week and see what happens.

4. Do less

Now I’m certainly not saying that this is a year to sit back and relax. It’s the time to test more, play more, experiment more, but not necessarily to *do* more. Make 2015 about learning and you’ll see that you turn out much higher quality products by the end of the year. Dedicate some time to understanding the MVF approach and brushing up on testing processes so that when you do less, it’s worth more.

5. Don’t try and do it alone

We did indeed come a long way in 2014, but 2015 is our product tribe’s golden moment. When trying to figure out new challenges and get better at your craft, you don’t need to do it alone. Mind the Product is the biggest product community in the world – today we’re more than 8,000 strong and #mtpcon 2014 saw over 1,000 of you come together from 39 different countries to move this discipline forward, together. Get involved this year at your local ProductTank meetups and at #mtpcon London or San Francisco to share your expertise and learn from your passionate product peers.

About JANNA BASTOW

Janna Bastow comes from a user-centric design background and has extensive experience building social web experiences. She founded ProductCamp London in 2010 in an effort to meet and learn from other product managers. As a product manager always looking for better tools, she co-founded ProdPad, product management software that helps you manage your roadmap and your product backlog. Update: We’re developing an e-course to help you set up and introduce a flexible theme-based roadmap, at your organization. We’ll drop it in your inbox when it’s ready – sign up here.

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