When creating a Minimum Viable Product (MVP), there are a few specific qualities you should seek out in your product manager to keep things running smoothly. Whether you’ll be the one filling the role or you’ll be hiring externally, these elements will be critical to prevent your project from falling off the deep end.
The qualities you should seek out will depend in large part on your company’s specific requirements and the type of leadership it requires. Once you know what you need from a product manager, finding the right one becomes that much simpler.
In this post, we will show you how confidence, objectivity, decision speed, and transparency all add up to a great product manager. We’ll use some of the lessons from the book Cracking the PM Interview (which is one of our top recommended reads) as we go. Let’s get started!
Quality #1: Confidence
Startup companies rely on their product managers making firm decisions and taking decisive action, instead of procrastinating over different options and failing to commit to one. A product manager is in charge of the vision, strategy, and your product’s roadmap. To succeed, they’ll need the confidence to step in at the right time.
Decisiveness is key because they must understand that filling smaller roles can sometimes be crucial to successful product development. If they consider certain tasks beneath them, it’ll undermine their authority and slow down the entire process. Here are some examples of the types of tasks a product manager might have to take over, to make sure development moves forward:
- Editing a blog post.
- Dealing with the legal department to make sure a product meets their requirements.
- Following up with the entire team on their milestone tasks to ensure a timely delivery.
- Actual physical tasks – even fixing the office toilet so everyone else can focus their energy on their own tasks.
A product manager’s job often entails figuring things out and making them work – even when there is no clear way forward. Without the necessary confidence in their decisions and knowing what needs to be done, a product manager might falter and bring down the MVP with them.
Quality #2: Objectivity
A product manager needs to be objective. When it comes to developing a product, that includes considering the strengths of their team, the direction the product will take, and their company’s overall goals.
Being able to make objective decisions is key when considering if you need to scrap any parts of your product. Considering it is a minimum viable product, some non-critical features will inevitably need to get cut in order to meet deadlines. Objectivity in these matters enables a product manager to choose wisely without showing favoritism or letting sentiment cloud their judgment.
To make objective decisions, a manager needs to remain up to date on all product developments, which is complicated unless they foster a culture of open communication within the company. Succeeding in this aspect will require the entire team to chip in, but it’s up to the project manager to push them in the right direction. Here are a few examples of steps a proactive product manager might take to do so:
- Keeping each team member up to speed on their progress through the product roadmap, so they can prioritize their tasks accordingly.
- Ensuring that each team member feels comfortable voicing concerns or ideas without fearing any type of backlash from higher-ups.
- Providing the proper tools and channels for communication between team members and themselves.
- Responding to employees when they reach out. This proves the product manager takes advice into consideration and makes an effort to stay on top of things.
If your product manager understands the importance of communication and makes an effort to inform himself before making important decisions, your team stands a good chance at creating something amazing.
Quality #3: Decision Speed
Aside from being confident and objective, product managers also need to react quickly to any issues that come up. In the MVP environment, a product manager needs to be swift if he is to meet feature requests and adapt to time-sensitive requirements. When you have a major deadline coming up, there’s often no time to second-guess your decisions or put them off until later, you need to keep swimming forward until you outpace the current.
A competent product manager will come up with his (or her) own process to handle these types of complex scenarios. Take agile development, for example. It’s a great project management framework based on iterations, which makes it easy to adjust to new information quickly without pushing back delivery dates. Here’s how it works:
- The MVP is decided upon after high-level research and analysis.
- The first iteration builds the necessary baseline features for the product to function.
- Each feature goes through analysis, design, development, and testing before the iteration is completed.
- The iteration process is then repeated – whether to improve on existing features or add new ones.
New analysis and information for each iteration will come in from research and customer feedback, which can be immediately incorporated into the next cycle. This means you can rapidly build a big product in small steps without losing sight of what customers are actually looking for.
A good product manager will keep up with different types of methods to increase product development speed and choose swiftly which one will suit their team the best.
Quality #4: Transparency
Finally, your product manager should understand the importance of transparency in the workplace and how to foster it, which goes hand in hand with open communication.
Every business relies on decent communication within its team, but a lack of transparency can also sink an MVP, since you’re dealing with a delicate process. True transparency means your team should be able to work together and decide which features should be added or cut, by assessing all the information at hand. Plus, an air of transparency can help build solidarity and camaraderie among your team, which increases their level of personal involvement to the MVP.
Fostering transparency in the workplace takes a conscious effort from the product manager and it often goes through these basic steps:
- Hiring trustworthy employees. Without trust, there cannot be any transparency and they’ll struggle to bring out the individual strengths of the team.
- In meetings, a product manager should be open and honest about any shortcomings within the team (including their own) and how they can be improved.
As a general rule of thumb, your product manager should believe in the value of transparency and always remain on the lookout for ways to foster it within their team.
A product manager with the right qualities will bring out the best in your team and your MVP. Not all product managers are made equal and each company has their own requirements, but as long as you have a clear idea of what type of leadership you need, finding the right candidate should be straightforward.
Putting aside your company’s specific requirements, here are some of the qualities every product manager should possess to lead the development of an MVP:
1. Confidence: To keep the ball rolling with any tasks that need to be done.
2. Objectivity: To collect all available information and make appropriate decisions for the product.
3. Decision speed: To ensure timely deliveries and provide clarity for their team.
4. Transparency: To build an open team that feels comfortable working together based on their individual strengths.
Which quality do you think is most important for a product manager? Let us know any questions you have about this in the comments section below!
Image credits: Helloquence.