Addition of new Product Manager – Can it be an opportunity to add a new perspective to the product?

We all heard a lot about dos and don’ts for a Product Manager during first 30 days to make herself familiar with i) People or Stakeholders, ii) Product and iii) Market.

Why don’t we flip the coin and identify dos and don’ts for a hiring manager or a mentor during first 30 days of a new Product Manager? The arrival of a new Product Manager is an opportunity to bring in a breath of fresh air, contest the status-quo and to add a new perspective to the product. The role of a mentor during those 30 days could make a lot of difference in realizing that opportunity.

Perspective of an outsider

As we start doing things repeatedly (building products, pricing, marketing, strategy), we slowly but steadily fall into a trap of doing things in a certain way, sometimes it becomes the only way which is familiarly called as status quo. Things get terribly worse when status quo remains uncontested for a long time. Especially during those times, a view of an outsider can help unmask the trap that has consumed us.

A new Product Manager can bring-in a perspective of an outsider unearthing details that did not catch the attention of the team earlier.
• Is the product easy to spot and order?
• Are customers getting all possible information about the product?
• How easy is the product to use?
• Are we adopting the right business model?
• Is the execution aligned with product strategy?
• Is the product missing out on certain target segments that could increase the revenues?

Focusing on bigger scheme of things, there is often possibilities to miss little details and we take them for granted. New Product Manager can possibly spot them. Ideally what a mentor can do in those 30 days is to allow new Product Manager explore on her own, take her own path, pick her own directions, decide her own course of journey to finally let the world know what she has discovered. Mentor could just step aside and watch the progress while providing occasional guidance without influencing the thought process of a new Product Manager.

Never say what to do

Product Management is more of an art than science and there is never one way of doing things, so creating boundaries around what a new Product Manager should do and how he should do curbs the creativity and potentiality of new Product Manager.

New Product Manager was hired because she might have shown some promise during the interview process, then why force her to execute a pre-drafted plan rather than allowing her enough space to exhibit her talent.

The best part of a hiring process is not just in hiring a great talent but also in creating an environment for the great talent to unleash her potential.

“It doesn’t make sense to hire smart people and then tell them what to do; we hire smart people so they can tell us what to do.”
– Steve Jobs

Even if the house is on fire, the best way forward is to provide an opportunity for a new Product Manager to take a pause, grasp everything on her own and plan how to douse the fire effectively.

I strongly believe in diversity in the team – diversity in thoughts, diversity in education, diversity in experiences, and diversity in beliefs. If you have a Product Manager with an engineering background, ensure that another Product Manager is hired with sales, design or any other product with exception of engineering. Heterogeneity in team spurs innovation through holistic thinking.

Inquisitiveness and ability to network

Does this model work? Depends on the ability of new Product Manager to self-start, network, and remain curious.

Product Manager should be inquisitive and should have the ability to network to build a relationship with all stakeholders to get s@*t done. The journey of a new Product Manager discovering the product, people, market etc. would essentially put to test those skills. The curiosity of a Product Manager would thrust her to explore more by constantly asking why and in the process new Product Manager could also attempt to shackle the status quo bringing a new perspective and creating new insights.

If someone has followed this model, let me know how effective it was. Was new Product Manager successful in discovering insights not construed by existing team? Appreciate your feedback in the comments section or drop me your thoughts at murali.erraguntala@gmail.com.