Ask A Good Product Manager

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What goals are appropriate for a new product manager?

Posted on May 27, 2008 · 7 Comments

Question: What are good goals for a new product manager?

We are hiring a new product manager. What would be some realistic goals to expect for the first 30, 60, and 90 days for this person? The candidate is new to this industry but has prior product management experience.

Answer from Michael Hopkin of Lead on Purpose: First of all, congratulations on hiring a new product manager! When a company invests in building out its product management / marketing team, it will reap the rewards.

We all know the first 30 days at a new company are filled with paperwork and discovery. Bigger companies usually have some form of a new employee orientation plan that helps the person get up to speed. A few realistic goals for a new PM in her or his first 30 days might include the following:

  • Know the ins and outs of HR: Get the benefits paperwork filled out, signed and out of your hair.
  • Know the IT guys: There will no doubt be hiccups in getting your equipment configured, applications installed and understanding how to navigate the company Intranet.
  • Know your team: Meet all the members of the teams you will be working with, know their names and give them a chance to know you. Spend time with them. Don’t worry about knowing everything about what they do, but get to know the people. People are assets.

These goals might be better assigned to the hiring manager. The manager can help the new PM get a good start by getting him or her get plugged in to the company.

Within 60 days the new PM will have had enough time to get comfortable with the company and understand where she or he fits in. The second 30 days will be valuable for getting up to speed on the product and the new industry. Relevant goals for this period include:

  • Know the industry: Spend at least ten hours a week reading and understanding the industry. Google Alerts work great for this. Charge the new PM with sending out information to the team. This will not only force the new PM to know the industry but will also make him or her accountable to the team.
  • Know the products: This goes without saying, but the PM must know the products he or she owns. In my current company we have created an exam that tests the employees on their knowledge of the products. The employees have MBOs on how quickly they need to pass the test and by what percentage they must pass it. Some have merit increases tied to their scores.
  • Get appropriate training: The new PM needs to receive training on the company and the products. If the PM has not received specific training in product management, I highly recommend it. When I started a new job five years ago I spent the first three days at a Pragmatic Marketing training seminar. To this day I can still identify things which I learned in that training which have helped my career.

When considering setting 90-day goals, you may want to consider more long-term goals. Not too changes between 60 and 90 days, but a lot happens (or should happen) within the first six months and the first year. I recommend you set six-month and one-year goals (or MBOs). Jeff Lash wrote an excellent post answering a similar questions about goals for product managers. He said:

I think product managers should have a small set of appropriate metrics that align with the larger company goals. If your company is small and growing, you may want to focus on revenue growth and customer adoption. If you are large and in a very competitive market, measuring profitability and margins may be more appropriate.

He goes on to list four baseline goals which I recommend for your review.

Hiring a new product manager is an important step in the growth and success of a company. Hiring the right person is critical. Helping him or her get off on the right foot is critical. Spend time setting sound goals and objectives that will help him or her quickly start to add value to the company. It will benefit you as the hiring manager as well as the new PM.

7 other answers so far ↓

  • Derek Britton // May 27, 2008 at 10:36 am

    Great answer Michael! I would agree with all of this. I would also stress the need to immerse yourself in the product, the market, the sales process, the customers, the value propositions, the messaging, the collateral, the roadmap etc. This is not an easy task – moving from novice to expert in 90 days, but that will be the expectation, so you might as well set that lofty goal! Tough, but a sensible thing to aim high!

    Additionally, focus your energy not on a blow by blow review of all the technology – that will come with time. Understand the broad brush yes, but actually what is key is learning WHO in the organization are the real go-to guys on the product, from an engineering/dev perspective, plus from an external (SE, consultant, experienced sales guy) perspective. These are the people you will rely on and this is the ecosystem you will have to nurture. Deciding NOT to force the poor guy to learn all the tech in no time at all will buy you some more time to spend on more important matters (the top of that list is the customers, ideally)

    Do not fall into the classic trap of asking the new PM to simply dive into the product for a month or two so that they can do a “great demo”. That’s just an SE task and if that’s what you want them to do, you are actually training another SE.

    One thing I notice about the “method” of being a PM is that while we try to focus on best-practice and due-process as a profession, we aren’t necessarily great at it for ourselves. So ensure things like templates, process guidelines, contact information, ERP systems, best-practice, example (recent projects) documents and sample collateral are all up to date, accessible, well-explained, and clear. Funny how clear the processes are in one’s head, until you have to try to explain it or provide the url.

    But this is more about the finesse of what to do, the guts of the response I think you’ve already received, and there are several excellent defintions of the role available.

  • Gopal Shenoy // May 27, 2008 at 4:45 pm

    Here is what I did in the first 30 days when I started my last couple of jobs as a product manager.

    Setup 1-on-1 meetings with key internal stakeholders – engineering, sales, PM, executive management (if you are in a small company), product marketing, order admin, customer service, QA, shipping etc. Basically you should know at least one person in every department that touches your product by the end of 30 days.

    Reach out and say you are seeking help – people usually love to help the new guy (this is the honeymoon period, take the best use of it – you can ask any dumb questions and get away with it – after all you are the new guy). The purpose of this to understand the lay of the land and get to understand the people dynamics within the company. This is more important than learning anything about the product in the first 30 days.

    Everything else from thereon will depend on the other variables – company size, product type etc.

    Gopal
    http://productmanagementtips.com

  • Michael Ray Hopkin // May 27, 2008 at 9:22 pm

    Derek, you make and excellent point about getting the new PM hooked in with the go-to guys are in the company. This not only helps the new PM know the lay of the land, but it gives the top players time with the new PM, which improves communication and helps the new PM gain confidence and get up to speed more quickly.

    Gopal, great suggestion to know at least one person in every department. Setting up 1-on-1 meetings is a clear and easily definable goal. The PM’s manager can help by identifying the players and helping form a list of information to seek during the meetings. Lunch meetings work great for this type of interaction (when feasible).

    Michael

  • nick coster // May 27, 2008 at 9:47 pm

    One of the other aspects of starting as a product manager for a product is the ability to still see it
    from an outsiders perspective. This is particularly valuable when the PM has been hired from outside the company.

    Mine the new PM for all the negative feedback that you can get about the product. All the things that they don’t like and wish that they could change. (Often this is one of the motivators for wanting to become a PM for a given product)

    Too often I have seem new PM’s come into their jobs and provide very constructive feedback about their experiences, only to be told that it is too hard to fix things and that they should get used to it. Nothing shuts down creativity like that.

    If this information in not captured within the first 30 or so days then it will be lost forever.

    So encourage the feedback good and bad about all aspects of the product that they have inherited, document it, learn from it and finally act on it!
    –nick coster

  • Goals for a new product manager « Lead on Purpose // May 28, 2008 at 11:36 pm

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  • Saeed Khan // May 30, 2008 at 5:50 pm

    One thing that I recommend to new PMs or experienced PMs coming into new jobs is to get out to see customers and partners as soon as possible. i.e. once the ink is dry on the HR forms.

    Getting out of the office in the first week or two on the job has a number of benefits:

    1. Gets the PM out of the office and meeting the right people before anyone can drag them into meetings

    2. Set’s a good example to others that the PM is going to focus on external issues as much as internal ones

    3. Before any biases set in, let’s them hear and evaluate external feedback. Also arms them with first hand information so they can start contributing when they return to the office

    4. Helps start developing relationships with key partners, customers and salespeople very early in their tenure

    5. As the new PM probably can’t go alone to a lot of the meetings due to lack of product or possibly domain knowledge, provides a good excuse to get one or more other PMs out of the office as well.

    6. Helps those PMs traveling together bond as a team which is great for the PM team.

    There are several more reasons but I’ll stop here.

    Saeed

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