GOAL! That four letter word never fails to excite a crowd in any sports game. Personal goals are not much different. Goals will give you something to strive for and reaching those goals will feel phenomenal. With every goal you reach you will notice the advancement of your career.
As a product manager, creating concrete goals is a challenging feat. There are so many ways to approach your work and too many goals can be just as bad as none. Nevertheless, goals are important to have as they will always give you that push to grow, improve, and open new doors.
To assist, I wrote a list of the 5 goals that I set for my own product management career to help get you on the right track. Let’s get started.
Top 5 Goals for Your Product Management Career
1. Seek a marked improvement in customer satisfaction metrics
First and foremost are the customers. If the customers aren’t satisfied with your product how can you convince them to purchase it?
Personally I found metrics to be very useful as an objective look at data. I recorded relevant metrics from a monthly, quarterly, and annual basis, and then graphed them over time.
This allowed me to compare the timeline of metrics with significant decisions and events in the product life-cycle. Analysis like this gave me a starting point for discussions and team meetings and thus improved upon the direction of our product.
With our greater understanding of our customers we better understood what paths to choose. Knowing which actions directly lead to successes or failures are significant for figuring out what to change or continue.
Remember that the customer will always decide for themselves how they feel about a product. All you need to do is follow them so that they will follow you. Pay attention to how they react and use that information for your gain.
2. Never stop learning
There is always more to learn and room to improve what you know. There are a million ways to learn but I’ll outline a few that I particularly liked using.
To broaden your skills, try attending a professional seminar, course, or trade show every once in awhile. This is where you can learn new skills and sharpen those you already acquired (and even get some networking done in between!).
You might be forced out of your comfort zone at these sessions, but that can be beneficial. The less comfortable you are, the more likely you are involved in something you lack skills in. The more you are involved where you lack skills, the more you will develop the very skills you lack! Going out of your comfort zone is a prime way to learn what you may be lacking in.
Learning can also come from unconventional, less formal methods. Teaching and mentoring others either in the workforce or online can help build your experience.
Teaching is, in my experience, one of the best ways to learn. You can gain new perspectives from co-workers and find new ways to solve practical problems. Sometimes it’s just the simple act of talking out loud that can spark new perspective and clarity.
If you ever feel there is nothing else to learn then it’s time to challenge yourself or to sit down and think outside the box. No matter how you feel, there is always more to learn. Nobody is perfect, but there is no reason you shouldn’t push yourself to learn everything out there.
3. Research other relevant products and market influences
One of the many responsibilities belonging to a product manager is knowing how your product is utilized and works, but I took that one step further.
Pay attention to products outside of your own organization. Products to focus on in particular are the competition. Understanding your product is significantly improved with a greater understanding of the competition. The more you understand the products that oppose your own, the more you about where your product stands.
If your product falls way behind then your product will fail. Not only do you need to keep up with competition, you need to exceed them.
On the other hand, other markets and products can be relevant despite not competing with yours. Keep up to date with new technology, social media, pop culture, and ideas in general being used by anyone. You never know what ideas and products can inspire innovation for your own product.
Using outside influence will broaden your horizons and open the doors to a whole world beyond yourself. If you limit a product to only you and your ideas, you limit the growth and success of your product. Don’t close those doors on yourself, rather stay open to everything out there. Anything can be useful.
4. More team meetings- specifically for feedback
Earlier we went over the importance of customer feedback, but the feedback of your own team is just as important. Your team works with you so you need to work with them. Imagine all the thoughts and ideas just waiting to get out there and be heard! All you need to do is open those doors.
Try focusing on topics such as the development process, future learning opportunities, project post-mortems, and brainstorm sessions. Take note of what your team discusses and use that information to gather data over time as well as improve your product and your methods.
Both internal and external feedback are integral to understanding of the opportunities and needs of your product. Your team is an invaluable resource of information considering they work on the same products as you. Utilize that information to develop your product and team further and further.
5. Celebrate milestones
Celebrating your product’s or company’s financial success is a fantastic incentive, but only up to a point. Financial success can lead a team to work for the money and not the product. You can create a money hungry team with zero passion which will most likely lead to burn outs.
Google has won the top place in Fortune Magazine’s “Best Company to Work For” for six years running (updated June 2017) mainly due to making sure employees enjoyed their work. Working for money is necessary but not always enjoyable. Setting milestones, and then celebrating them, can change the entire outlook.
Celebrating simple milestones such as hitting high customer satisfaction marks, resolving particularly complex problems, or even company growth keep the employees feeling valued and gives them reason to put their heart into the company rather than just their skills. You’ll notice them working harder the more they care.
“Be an opener of doors”- Ralph Waldo Emerson
Now you know how to open those doors. All the information, growth, innovation, and success once hidden are now free to be utilized. Ignoring a door that you can open will not only hinder you, but your product, team, and company as well. The world is filled with useful strategies and ideas just waiting to be taken advantage of by anyone looking for them. Make sure not to close the avenue off to yourself, but rather keep all options open and on the table to give you the edge necessary for success. With these goals in mind, one by one you’ll open the doors to success and walk the golden brick road.