Think Like a Product Manager by VP of Product at Lynda (LinkedIn)
Thinking like a Product Manager won’t come easily to people without the right frameworks and mindset. There are four mindsets when approaching ideation, creation, and delivery of high-value products that Product Managers need to know how to balance.
Ken Sandy shared with us what these mindsets are.
Product Consultant and Executive Coach
Ken Sandy is a 20-year veteran in the consumer internet industry. He has led Product Management teams at an executive level at both fast-growth, start-up companies looking to break into new markets, and at incumbents attempting digital transformations amidst industry disruption.
Ken is currently a Product Consultant and Executive Coach, working closely with companies looking to drive focus and growth through maturing their Product Management processes and teams. Ken is also an Industry Fellow at the Center for Entrepreneurship and Technology at University of California, Berkeley, where he instructs in Product Management and Social Entrepreneurship. Previously, Ken was Vice President, Product at Lynda.com. Check his website here.
The Four Product Manager Mindsets
The mindsets are exploration, analysis, critique, and evangelism. No matter what stage in the product lifecycle, simultaneously and deliberately viewing your product through these perspectives will help avoid common pitfalls and help deliver a superior solution.
Ken Sandy discussed these mindsets and what is characteristic about each of them. He also talked about how you can learn the relative advantages of each mindset: how exploration drives innovation, analysis drives understanding, critique identifies risks, and evangelism provides a path to delivery.
He put the execution into context: A Product Manager’s role is to build the right product, not to build the product right. It’s also to shed light on how to understand your “go-to” strengths vs. where you need to consciously practice.
- A product manager has to be able to convince people that they should do something. They also need to have contradictory thoughts about their product, such as, thinking about what can go wrong.
- Product managers have to know how to criticize and critique the product to show that they can be objective, and identify the negative as well as positive things about the product.
- The explorer mindset drives innovation. This happens by expanding the solution space with creative thinking, defining a product vision and borrowing from other products.
- The analyst mindset develops understanding. A person with this mindset understands the customer and their unmet needs, sets and measures performance metrics for the product and explores data to look for unexpected trends. This person also observes and interviews customers.
- Identifying and mitigating risks describes the challenger mindset. They shine light on flaws and approach ideas wanting continuous validation. They also communicate equally the things that concern them. They forget that their job is not just to decide what to do and, but also what not to do.
- The evangelist mindset builds momentum and support and motivates teams. They communicate with everyone regularly, leave time for catch-up and know how to lose ownership to the team. For them, context is key, and they set it.
Identifying your own product manager mindset may help you do your job better. Also realizing which group others around you fall in will help you understand them better and the way they work. When everyone understands each other, they work better as a team.