Enough Already! It’s Time to Focus on Your Product Management Professional Development

You’ve been working at home, you miss your team. You’re “zoomed out.” Have you been paying attention to your professional development as a product manager?

Regardless of your situation, whether you’re a new product manager or one with a few years of experience, you probably should put professional improvement on your agenda.

Have you ever felt that if you don’t find ways to accomplish all that’s expected of you, you’ll be driven by the urgent demands of others?  If you don’t possess enough knowledge of the proper context, others will create that context for you as you put out fires and react to the urgent demands of the day. Good business leaders excel at steering others by articulating a clear vision and a common set of goals – and so it goes with product managers. They can anticipate problems, finesse what’s needed to keep everyone focused, and set the right priorities for the organization.

As a product manager, you’re expected to have:

  • A deep understanding of customers or users and the challenges they face
  • An uncanny knack for being proactive in recognizing market trends and identifying competitive forces
  • Build and cultivate collaborative teams, even if everyone’s virtual.
  • The ability to envision a solution to a customer’s problem (a product or service) in the hands of a customer or user
  • A way to share that vision and ensure that people across the organization can imagine the same endpoint: a great product in the hands of a happy customer
  • An appreciation for the timing and cadence of work produced by people in various functions in the creation, deployment, and management of products
  • The creativity to inspire a collaborative environment with others in recognizing and solving problems
  •  The utilization of softer skills to communicate, create political capital, influence others, and get things done

I cannot reinforce this point enough: If you aspire to be a great product manager, you must develop a sixth sense for markets, customers, people, and the intricacies of workflows in any organization.

While you may not be there yet, if you want to be a great product manager, it’s vital to know that much of your success is determined by how you think and behave—and, of course, by the results you obtain.

No matter where you start out (or started out) as a product manager, you’ve got to be able to determine where you are so you can figure out what to work on as part of your professional development strategy.

Product management acumen is associated with your ability to completely grasp every aspect of a product’s business. This includes markets, people, systems, finances, performance measures, and processes. The term also describes the attributes of strategic-thinking problem solvers who get things done in a complex organization.  Further, product management acumen comprises several attributes, organized in six logical groups or clusters. These attributes have been fine-tuned as a result of my benchmarking research. These clusters include:

  1. Market and product
  2. Mindset
  3. Product management activities
  4. Communication and interpersonal skills
  5. Individuality and efficiency
  6. Performance and results

The Product Management Acumen Assessment is a way to help you evaluate your skills and experience that reflect some of what’s included in the six attribute clusters, as well as other items related to topics that I discuss in the 2nd Edition of The Product Manager’s Survival Guide.  It covers key areas associated with the role of the product manager and also helps you to identify the degree of domain expertise you have. You can use this online tool to identify areas on which you might focus; you can also use it as a benchmark to compare your own performance against a global database of other product managers.

After you take the Product Management Acumen Assessment, you may wish to harness what you learn, dive right in, and start your work on any number of action items. This is only natural, as it’s a personal process, and most of us want to improve. Such a self-assessment is also important because it provides you with the ability to link the different dimensions of your own professional and career puzzle.

However, contemplation allows you to think more carefully about your strengths and weaknesses. Therefore, I suggest adopting a technique that strategic planners use to capture and synthesize the characteristics of their business. This technique is known as SWOT analysis. SWOT is an acronym that represents four main areas in which a business can be evaluated: strengthsweaknessesopportunities, and threats. You can use your self-assessment to capture and synthesize important aspects of your situation to create strategies for your professional development.

It’s a good idea to appraise your strengths and weaknesses and to consider emerging threats before coming up with opportunities to improve a given area of your product management acumen. As you evolve, you can consider several opportunities that will help you form a more purposeful professional development strategy that can be discussed with your boss or others, helping you to clearly delineate your goals.

Also, after you do this assessment, you’ll note that you most likely did not get a top score in every cluster. Having the knowledge of where you are now gives you a chance to target the development of your own experience. It is better to undertake your performance improvement after you determine what your next strategic step should be. The decision to focus on a particular area for improvement should depend largely on the impact you want to have and the goals you want to achieve. To take the Product Management Acumen Assessment, go to this link: https://survey.sequentlearning.com/s3/PMAcumen. When you complete the assessment, you’ll get a report of your scores, and you’ll have information to compare your scores to the global population of those who have also taken the survey.

One more thing – after you take the survey – let’s get some training done! At Sequent, we have a great library of online self-paced courses that you can use to sharpen your skills. REGISTER FOR PRODUCT MANAGEMENT ESSENTIALS ONLINE, and don’t forget to share with your colleagues. Truly – you can get your product management training done for less than nine hundred bucks and earn your professional product management certification! What could be better?

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