As a manager or manager of managers of a product development team it’s hard to focus on the right things and to make sure that you’re making progress on your ever growing list. I wanted to share a few of my personal frameworks that have helped me focus better and be more productive over my career:
1. Understand Product and Team Health
I wrote a separate post about this here but one of the most important things you can do when managing lots of products/teams is to understand the health of both the products and the corresponding teams. I do this by asking the following three questions and tracking this over time.
- What do the metrics say? Metrics are impartial measures of how the product is performing on an absolute basis and trending. Having valid, high quality data sources is essential.
- What does the team say? Most of your insight will be from the team lead, but make sure and also talk to team members from time to time so you can further validate (or invalidate) the insight from the lead.
- What do our customers say? Talk to customers, talk to customer support, get structured data on customer pain points.
Combining the insight from these three sources has helped me improve judgement around what we should build and also help with designing better teams.
2. Segment your work
I segment all of my work into three buckets:
- (10-20%) Set of things that only I can do (or want to do) myself
- (60-70%) Set of things I can structure and review
- (10-20%) Set of things that need zero oversight or someone else can do better
This allows me to spend time on the areas that I can have the most impact while making sure that I don’t drop the ball on all the jobs that need to be done by the organization.
Over time, if your objective is to make yourself redundant you should aim to move more and more tasks from category 2 to category 3. This is also a good sign of a team that both well assembled and performing well.
3. Track your time
Each quarter I write up my personal goals (Primary focus, Secondary focus, Observing) and share them with folks I work with very closely.
As part of this exercise, I reflect back on the previous quarter and break down my allocation of time and highlight anything in my list of goals that did not get done.
I then take all the tasks that I don’t think should be on my plate going forward (not the right priority, or someone can do better) and plan to transfer them to someone else for the next quarter as part of my personal planning process.
This has helped me be more deliberate and focus on the things that matter.
4. Get buy in for projects
People are the most important asset in any product development organization and high performers do not like to be told what to work on. One of the most important things that managers of product development teams have to do is get buy in from their teams on the projects they work on.
In the ideal situation a specific job to be done matches both the interest of a team/person and their capabilities. In other situations you’ll need to get buy in from teams to take on projects, and the best outcomes are always situations the team is motivated to work on the project (ideally it’s even their idea).
Depending on the person or team and their preferences, it’s important to phrase the project in the right terms:
- Do it for the Company: This project the most impactful thing you can do for the company’s growth – logic and long term thinking.
- Do it for your Team: This is the most impactful thing you can do for your peers or your team – community and selflessness.
- Do it for Yourself – This is the most impactful thing you can do for your development/career – drive and growth.
- Do it for Me: This is something I need you to do for me – strength of the personal relationship. This line should be used sparingly, because it can be relationship damaging and/or selfish.
These are a small subset of tools that I’ve found personally helpful as I’ve worked with product development teams over the last decade and hope you do as well!