5 Signs a Product Manager Is Operating in the Dark
June 4, 2018

5 Signs a Product Manager Is Operating in the Dark

by Brian de Haaff

Do you like scavenger hunts? Searching all over can be a fun game for kids. But when it comes to product management — well, hunting for clues to understand what is happening is not nearly as delightful. And unfortunately, I hear from many product builders that your teams are spending too much time tracking things down.

Many product teams are working in this kind of darkness. It is a painful truth.

It is especially painful because the market challenges that product teams face today are increasingly complex. Customer preferences and behaviors are constantly evolving. These realities make it even more important for teams to operate in the full light of a clear strategy.

Of course, this requires the organization to have a clear vision, a thorough understanding of the customer, and a plan that connects the work to the goals. This is the ideal state. But it can be hard to achieve in the noise of massive companies with large product portfolios, active M&A environments, a global workforce, and “dotted line” reporting that looks like a hairball on paper.

So, how does one product manager clear a path through the chaos and get to that illuminated place? First, you have to understand where your team is thriving and where you are fumbling to find your way in the shadows.

Ask yourself if any of the following symptoms sound familiar:

Murky strategy Your company may have a vision for serving the customer — but is that vision articulated clearly and shared widely? Is there strategy in place? And does everybody understand how their work ultimately serves the strategy and the customer? If the answer to any one of these questions is “no,” then entire teams are working at cross-purposes.

Information hoarding What you do not know can actually hurt you. One group is quietly holding valuable data and analysis about usage of your product. Other colleagues talk directly to customers on a regular basis but rarely share what they hear. Without access to these insights, you are operating with assumptions and guesswork.

Roadmap roulette Your team worked hard to pull a cohesive product roadmap together. But these plans are dynamic by nature and many groups across the organization need quick and easy access to the latest version. If they cannot find it, they will resort to an old version with outdated release dates. Or they will fly blind and fill in the gaps with their own guesswork. Either way, catastrophe looms.

Dead-end tasks Without connecting strategy to execution, you could come up with an action that makes perfect sense on its own but serves no goals. All that work could be for nothing — or even worse, at odds with the plan. Multiply that out across the entire organization and you are talking about some serious misdirected energy and depressing lack of forward momentum.

Big drama The common source of big drama? Confusion. In other words, many people with conflicting ideas and information. If that sounds like a recipe for disaster, it is. And it is common in large companies. In the absence of objective goals and prioritization, people make decisions based on opinions and preferences. Not everybody can have their way, so the result is hurt feelings and the type of dysfunction that impacts everyone — including the customer.

You and your product team deserve clarity. In order to clear the way, you need to know where to focus.

Sometimes this means confronting uncomfortable behavior that has become the norm. Depending on your leverage within the organization (or lack thereof), it can feel like an insurmountable challenge.

But if you care deeply about your team, your product, and your customer, then the challenge is not just about speaking up and affecting change where you can. The challenge is what happens if you do not.

What is the biggest hurdle your product team is facing?

All lasting companies change. Start today with a free 30-day trial of Aha!

Brian de Haaff

Brian de Haaff

Brian seeks business and wilderness adventure. He is the co-founder and CEO of Aha! — the world’s #1 product development software — and the author of the bestseller Lovability and The Startup Adventure newsletter. Brian writes and speaks about product and company growth and the journey of pursuing a meaningful life.

Follow Aha!

Follow Brian

Related articles

The Best Cover Letters That CEOs Love to Read
April 13, 2017
The Best Cover Letters That CEOs Love to Read

A well-crafted cover letter is a great way to get noticed. Find out what to include in your cover letter to catch the attention of a CEO.

New Marketing Managers — Do These 8 Things in the First 30 Days
January 28, 2019
New Marketing Managers — Do These 8 Things in the First 30 Days

Are you a new marketing manager? Check out these suggestions from eight marketing experts on how to show your true value in your first 30 days.

The tragedy of 'good enough'
June 4, 2024
The tragedy of 'good enough'

Leaders create an environment that fosters continual improvement when they: 1. Hire for achievement. 2. Invest in training. 3. Keep raising the standard.

6 Characteristics of the Best Bootstrapped Businesses
July 19, 2022
6 Characteristics of the Best Bootstrapped Businesses

Founding and running a startup takes courage and conviction. Bootstrapping is a mindset that can also serve as an operating model for sustainable growth. These are the…