Consulting as a PM I have found that organizations have different understandings of what a Product Manager is. The best time to validate the organizational understanding is in the interview process. I might write a separate post on the exploratory questions a PM should ask during that process. This post is all about those first 30 days. The points made in this post should supersede the organizational differences and be more “generally applicable” to help you win in those first 30 days and beyond.
Understand the role. Interviewers often have handcuffs on how much they can share during the interview stage. Now the curtain is open so you need to quickly become clear on success criteria and the remit of your responsibilities. Your manager should have this information and if there are gaps hunt down answers and keep your manager in the loop so you’re working off the same page.
Relationships are more important than processes. Everyone should be able to figure out agile or SAFe but that’s simply a way of working. An important common understanding. When things go wrong, which they will it’s the relationships that get you and your team across the line. So meet key stakeholders 1:1. Show intent, initiative and start building early.
How do people work today? Engineers are not PMs. Designers, not PM’s either. In my experience, they never just want to jump into your meeting so they can be quizzed about hypotheticals. A messy approach here can be devastating for a team as you win that trust back. Find out how they work. How they want to work with a PM. Come to a Consensus ad idem on how to work together. Become a trusted source of information and direction and become work-friends so those hypotheticals become part of the discourse (small asks, creating a spike is always the correct course of action)
Your product is your home. When you want to find your favorite cup at home you know where to look, right? It should be the same as your product. If a question comes up, a competitor introduces a new USP or theres a glitch you either know the answer, can reference the answer or know who to ask. Learning this early will make your job easier, build trust and improve efficiency.
What does the senior management team care about most? Growth? Churn reduction? Know it. Find a way to positively impact it and demonstrate the impact you have (within your remit and agreed objectives ofcourse).
Know what to measure. Getting access to critical information is a top priority. Ask people what they’re measuring, get access. See if there are tools or techniques you could introduce to improve dashboards, data sources or how data is turned into decisions.
Build trust with influencers. I’ve spoken on this blog before about HIPPOs. Although I don’t like the term it doesn’t lessen the importance of these stakeholders. Its best to get to know them. If they take a shine to you it can make a huge difference. I once had such a person green light me to fast track a project that won an IF Design and Red Dot design award. She’d never heard of a “user story” or a “persona” but she knew that with her blessing it unlocked creativity and progress. Everyone wins when there’s trust in a team.
Become an AI-powered Product manager by creating a system to map your knowledge. This doesn’t mean build an LLM it just means information is your oil and you need to know where to dig as well as move the information around. The key lesson is to document everything you learn in a private and secure tool.
Demonstrate how. In your first few months how you do things is more important than what you do. I’ve learned to jump in and hang on to maybe the second or third most important item. Messing up on #1 will hit your confidence early so document what you learn and show how you’re working.
Fasttrack users/customers. Find a way to get to users in the quickest and easiest way. Who has the insights, user studies even market data and tools. Unlock this early to help shape your data mosaic to you deeply understand your customers and their needs.