How can I help my PM improve her skills?

One of the PMs I manage is really struggling with being able to lay out vision for her area. In the past I have resorted to doing this work for her but as expected, this hasn’t built the skill. What are some actionable steps I can suggest her to get her working on this improvement area?

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I just went through a similar exercise with my entire team and helped everyone write their own vision. I took the following steps.

  • First wrote the company wide product vision for them to use as guidance
  • I was also IC’ing a new product area so wrote another product vision for that specific product
  • Wrote a step by step doc on expectations with additional guidance, external content (what’s a vision, what’s a strategy, etc.)
  • Finally, tapped 1-2 people on the team to share very early rough outline where we did a figjam to give feedback and guidance.

It was a challenging exercise, but paid massive dividends. It took us about 3-4 months to finalize and publish all the product visions across the company.

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Here’s what I included in the guidance:

Why is having a Product Vision important?

First, this is how I think about product planning and really any general company planning.

  • Mission - What you are trying to eventually do?
  • Vision - Where are you going and why?
  • Strategy - How are you going to get there?
  • Roadmap/OKRs/Priorities - Stuff you have to get there
  • Metrics - Your scorecard

What should be included in the vision?

  • Answer the question - Where is your product going? Try and think several years. It should be minimum one year.
  • Be realistic, but also aspirational.
  • Think Macro not Micro - this isn’t a feature vision but a product vision
  • Start by stating where you are today.
  • Call out existing problem that need to be solved, but then think big on new opportunities to drive revenue on margins. It should be somewhat aspirational.
  • Should you consider difference between retail and institutional?
  • Tie in Mynd’s product vision and the company’s financial goals.
  • Consider using data and visuals when it makes sense.
  • Include milestones, phases, etc. to explain to the reader the path to get there. (This falls more into strategy so the specifics ight not be defined yet)
  • Use whatever medium is comfortable - slides, google doc, notion, confluence. Pro tip: the beauty of long form writing is that you don’t need to make the slides look pretty and still provide all the context.
  • It should be narrative with lots of context. Someone should be able to read this vision and understand it without the need for presenting.
  • Consider Porter’s Five Forces as you think through your vision.

More guidance was included, but can’t share all the specifics :slightly_smiling_face:
in the end, everyone wrote long form product visions in notion where we used sync’ed blocks to connect all the visions to the main vision and other product visions.

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“Product vision” can be code for many different things— from a design-driven North Star with future-looking mocks to a full-blown strategy document that articulates the where to play/how to win. That’s why it’s sometimes intimidating for a PM to get started.Make the exercise tangible and easy for her to get started. Ask her to do a first draft and then share it for feedback.

  1. Align with her on the format. Is it a document? A slide deck? A set of design mocks?
  2. Align with her on a set of questions that the artifact needs to answer. One easy way to get started is to write it as an FAQ format.
  3. Assign her a mentor— someone who can be a sounding board/jam with her on ideas if she gets stuck.
  4. Align with her on what questions she’s not responsible for answering. For example, I assume you’d not want her to answer the mission/vision/strategy/target customer of the entire company (that’s the Head of Product’s job). The “vision” for her strategy should ladder up to the company’s. Make sure you’ve given her clarity on these upstream questions, so that she can reasonably answer them for her area.
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Maybe this is too late or indirect, but when coaching more junior (and sometimes not so junior) PMs on how to articulate a vision, I ended up with the notion that

Data accumulates as Experience leading to an Opinion which unlocks a Vision

and wrote about it here.It doesn’t prescribe an immediately actionable path, but could help strike a balance between you and her on what’s the whitespace for her to fill in, be it in terms of the vision itself as well as to how to own more of it.