Practices to Optimize Your Product Management Department

Optimizing an existing Product Department is never a simple task. Despite the difficulties, there are actions every PM Director or VP can take to hone their respective teams.

There is no one perfect roadmap towards optimizing a Product Management department. Every company has their own strategy, and every team operates under their own guidelines. There are, however, verifiable steps that can help you get your department to where it needs to be. These practices are simple in nature but can have huge benefits on both the group and individual level there is no need to worry about disrupting productivity or efficiency because these methods are simple to understand and easy to implement.

For those who think that this sounds too good to be true, we only have one thing to say: IT’S NOT. Companies like Facebook, Twitter, and Google use these exact methods to optimize their business. They are field proven and can be adapted to companies of any size.

Now, with all that said, here are the tips to make your PM department function at top capacity.

Car engine, multiple components, technical

Create A Culture Of Goal Setting

The amount of companies lacking this basic principle is astonishing. Far too often executives expect their employees to establish a personal set of goals. The problem is that people don’t always operate like this.

So what can you do to combat this type of complacency? Rather than focusing on the end goal of a product launch or sprint, set daily and weekly tasks for each member of your team. Smaller goals help maintain consistency on product roadmaps and act as daily markers for your team’s success.

These goals should also be made visible for the entire department to see. Whether this is heavily emphasizing platforms like Trello, or simply using stickies and whiteboards, employees should be able to track their colleague and personal performance.

Having this standard of setting and accomplishing small goals has a transmittable effect on the neighboring departments as well. Motivation increases when your employees see their coworkers making tangible gains; no one wants to be the weak link in a strong unit!

Team of rowers preparing for a race.

Make Your Product Department’s Goals Quantifiable

In the past, we’ve had numerous PMs and PM managers discuss the keys to cracking Product Management interviews. Many of these tips revolve around demonstrating measurable impact. Your ability to show numerical and quantifiable accomplishments illustrates the tangible impact of your work. This same logic can be applied to your PM team or department.

Numerical evidence of success doesn’t just demonstrate the level of productivity within your team but also helps provide direction. Measurable goals highlight the steps that were accomplished, what is currently in progress, and where the team needs to put its focus moving forward.

Additionally, including quantifiable achievements also eliminates “fluff”.  The answer is there in clear, understandable numbers, which saves time and prevents wasteful information from convoluting a potential solution.

So, now that you have a culture that measures success in hard facts and cuts away the fat, actionable solutions are easier to implement. Decisions supported by hard data don’t require excessive deliberation, and you’ll be able to show concise paths for your actions.

Man typing on a MacBook, while working with data.

Make Accountability a Requirement

Grey areas in a PM department are a very real thing. There are far too many examples of teams fighting over tasks that are lacking clear management, which never ends up providing a productive solution. Designating assignments for these vague roles and requiring accountability for their completion can often save a product from failure.

There are several different routes towards ensuring accountability for these “spaces in between“. One of the most efficient methods is defining clear and concise lists. Here is one example we saw from a successful business:

  • PMs gathers research and analyzes the problem.
  • Designers ensure they understand the analysis, then continues with design to address the problem.
  • Engineer ensures they understand design, then deliver design.
  • The list of designation continues until launch

In this example, each member plays smaller roles within their overall position and must take responsible steps before moving along the production chain.  For this specific case, if your PM doesn’t analyze the problem correctly, the accountability falls on her but not the designer. Or, if the design doesn’t address the problem that has been correctly analyzed, the accountability lays with the designer. This chain of answerable actions continues down the entire Product Department until the implementation of the solution.

Establishing accountability in your department will not only have an impact on the ambiguous areas but also on the overall goal as well. Furthermore, these designations allow you to make colleagues their own boss, which will, in turn, give them a higher sense of value and purpose.

Iron linked chain.

When It’s All Said and Done

The truth is, managing a PM department is difficult. Pitfalls and obstacles will inevitably pop up at inopportune moments. Optimization of your team depends more on how you manage these difficult circumstances, rather than how you and your team manage times of success.

Thankfully, the tools described above will allow you to create a team that is capable of navigating the rough patches with greater ease. The moments of success, on the other hand, will also become more frequent and more actionable. Taking time to implement and improve these steps will create positive outcomes for consumers.

Have any suggestions or tricks that we forgot to add? Or do you have any practices that you’ve used in the past to accelerate team success? Leave us a comment below – we want to hear from you!

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