⚡️Adam's Product Management Newsletter - Issue #8 - My mistakes as a first time Product Manager





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Adam Wintle
Adam Wintle
Hi there,
It’s hard to pinpoint when I “officially” was a Product Manager. I can say I’ve been a product person for more than eight years, but a Product Manager, I suppose it’s about five years. 
I’ve also noticed over the past five years the role of Product Manager has become more well defined and becoming more popular. Whereas before the role became widespread, I was doing the product management role without even knowing it. 
Looking back to when I started to define myself as a Product Manager, I can see I made some fundamental mistakes. 

I tried to build way too much
Back then, my boss at the time highly recommended I read the book The Lean Startup by Eric Ries. Even though the book was published in 2011, I’d never heard of it. I went out and bought it and skimmed through the chapters and thought I got it, but I didn’t read the whole thing through to the end until about a year after. 
I learnt a big lesson here because I didn’t know or understand what lean product development was at all. All my ideas for the products I was working on were grand and visionary. I was trying to build massive world-changing products when all we needed to do was incrementally improve the product we had through validation and small improvements. 
With the grandiose roadmaps and features, it also meant we didn’t release often, sometimes the development team were working for months on end without making a release to customers. What I learnt is that it’s always better to release something sooner rather than later. It’s easier to manage, and you get valuable customer feedback faster. 
I thought I understood the customer
Without the shorter release cycles, we were mostly working in a black hole of development for many months. We were flying blind. We weren’t getting insights into if we were building the right thing for our customers. We weren’t getting any customer feedback or analytics on what we were building. 
I think my fault here was I presumed that I deeply understood the customer. I have no idea how I came to that conclusion. The number of customers I’d interacted with is so low I can’t even remember how many it was. 
I think it’s crucial to remember that you are not your customer. They are not product people working at tech companies; they don’t approach a product in the same way that we do. 
I try and create “living user personas” which are user personas which aren’t ever considered “finished”. They are continually being updated with new data and insights gained from customer feedback. I use these to get into the mindset of the customers, to try and understand their motivations and lifestyles; and ultimately understand how users want to interact with the product. 
Confusing Building the Right Product with Building Product Right
Lastly, and this ties into the first two, it’s easy to get the product development team into the habit of building “the perfect app”. Developers and designers love their craft, and if they aren’t familiar with a product- and customer-centric mindset, then you can go down a rabbit hole of building the product the right way, rather than building the right product. 
Developers and designers often say they need just a little bit more time to perfect whatever it is they’re working on. 
As a Product Manager it’s part of your job to guide the team to build the right product, and to validate that you’re working on the right thing as quickly as possible. 
Usually, but not always, something is “good enough” and can be perfected later. Alternatively, another way to look at it, if something is released in a “good enough” state, and customers then give feedback or request improvements to be made, then we learn that we’re heading in roughly the right direction. Then a round of improvements could be made to the feature to perfect it.
There are so many other beginner mistakes that new Product Managers can make, here’s a couple of other blog posts about this topic: 
6 common mistakes product managers should avoid
Five MAJOR Product Management Mistakes
6 Mistakes I Have Made as a Beginner Product Manager
Thank You
As always, thank you for sticking with me through to my 8th issue of the newsletter! 🥳
If there’s some tips or a topic you’d like me to write about just reply to this email and let me know.
Have a great week ahead,
Thanks again,
Adam Wintle
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Adam Wintle
Adam Wintle @adamwintle

Focusing on People and Product: the intersection of psychology and product management.

After working in product for over a decade and speaking to many other product mangers (as well as UXers, growth people, marketers and techies) the number one struggle I heard again and again is that people are at the root of the majority of the problems.

Once you have mastered the basics of product management. Once you have read all the books. After you’ve been to all the conferences. You’ve seen all the YouTube videos; you’re a member of all the Slack communities. Then you are only left with learning how to lead, work with and manage other people, to get them all aligned and pointing in the same direction, so you can build your product vision and ultimately build a successful product.

This art of People & Product can take decades to master. I’m certainly not a master of this yet, but I thought you might enjoy following along on my journey. Want in?

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