See also Part 1 | Junior Product Manager
Based on the common hierarchies in product management, you can use the following simple blueprint for the development of product managers and adapt it to individual needs and the company environment.
If you want to go deeper into the topic as a leader and coach, consider using more advanced concepts such as The PM Growth Bubble by Afonso Franco or “Strong — A complete guide to developing great product managers” by Petra Wille.
The contents are only briefly listed here and are not explained further. You can use the book recommendations given below as examples to get a good impression of the depth of the respective topics.
Development plan for a Product Manager
The basic skills and experiences acquired during the period as a Junior PM are expected and will be expanded with the following competences. The aim is to take over responsibility for increasingly complex and larger products, working as independently as possible. The following should be developed:
Build professional understanding
- The prevailing company jargon is mastered.
- Vision and goals are presented in an understandable way and in context for the own team. On the other hand, the team’s efforts are explained comprehensibly in the context of business objectives when communicating with the outside world.
- The strengths and weaknesses of the own product in relation to the market and competition are known and taken into account.
- Simple business models can be developed and validated without assistance.
- Necessary expertise concerning interaction with other disciplines — usually technology, marketing, sales, controlling, legal, etc. — is fundamentally available.
Master instruments for determining problems
- Assumptions and hypotheses are reliably distinguished from facts and critically questioned, even with difficult stakeholders.
- Relevant sources of information are identified and made available for each type of problem.
- Customer interviews are applied with confidence and in a target-oriented manner.
- The practice of clarifying a problem with the involvement of all stakeholders (customers, companies, feasibility, etc.) is mastered confidently.
- Decisions are made data driven wherever possible. They take into account which data can be useful and which can be misleading. Statistics and probabilities are well mastered.
- Requirements including measurability of success criteria are formulated unambiguously and completely.
Learning methods for problem solving
- The important (creative) techniques for identifying solutions — e.g. user journeys, story maps, design studio, etc. — are known and used effectively.
- Prototypes and other variants to validate assumptions or solution ideas are applied as needed.
- The consequences of technological and UX decisions are well understood. Issues such as scaling, availability, maintainability, accessibility, learnability or security of the product are considered.
Master the basics of collaborative work and processes in product development.
- The advantages and disadvantages of different development methods are fundamentally known.
- The difference between performance and results is fully understood. So are the interrelationships to drive results from the beginning to the end of a supply chain, while identifying qualitative and quantitative bottlenecks.
- Decision-making processes are well organised and decisions are made quickly and efficiently.
- Constructive escalations are managed without agitating others.
- Major projects are broken down into milestones, prioritised sensibly and combined with other issues for maintenance and further development.
- Feedback is given and accepted with confidence. Mistakes are communicated openly.
Methods for effective collaboration with stakeholders
- Collaboration with other departments works productively and is well timed. First synergies are identified.
- Workshops are well organised and facilitated.
- Integration of and communication to key stakeholders ensures collaborative exchange without unnecessary conflict.
- Basic negotiation techniques and conflict resolution are successfully applied.
Instruments of project and release management
- Planning procedures including risk management methods (e.g. critical chain management) are applied.
- Communication relevant to planning — also within external or international divisions — works well.
In this phase, individual interests and strengths will be developed and used wherever possible. Weaknesses are identified as possible limiters and discussed. This allows the planning of the next steps in the career development process.
Suitable literature for this role
There is a vast selection of literature for developing expertise in product management. The following books and ideas are a small selection:
- Books that provide a deeper dive into problem identification and problem solving, e.g. “The build Trap” by Melissa Perry.
- Books on the topic of results-oriented work, e.g. “Outcomes over Outputs” by Joshua Seiden.
- Various books that enable a deeper understanding on different levels, e.g. “The Harvard Concept” by Fisher & Ury for negotiation techniques, books on design (Design Thinking, Design Sprints, etc.), “Implementing Lean Software Development” or “Lean Software Development” by Mary & Tom Poppendieck for a deeper understanding of development processes and methods, “Business Model Generation” or “Testing Business Ideas” by Alexander Osterwalder to deepen successful business model generation, etc.