Product Management 101: How Product Managers Stay Productive

Product Management 101: How Product Managers Stay Productive

Welcome to Product Management 101. When you’re a product manager, staying organized isn’t easy. With everything riding on your shoulders, you have to be ready to shift gears on a moment’s notice, or to troubleshoot the product’s development cycle. Staying organized is crucial.

Ready to impose a little order on the chaos you’re navigating? Here are a few ideas you’ll want to check out.

Product management 101: using the right tools

Get an idea of what tools are out there

There’s a whole market of tools built specifically with product managers in mind. Whether they’re all-in-one platforms that you can tailor to your needs or dedicated product management solutions, a key part of product management 101 is diving in and shaping your team’s tool stack. Here are a few examples of the top product management tools out there:

  • Notion
  • Airtable
  • Wrike
  • Jira

You can get a full breakdown of these tools here.

Use Traditional Gantt Charts

Gantt Charts have been around for over a hundred years, and they’re a time-tested way to organize tasks. A Gantt chart is a series of bar graphs arranged to represent tasks, as well as the time required to complete them.

Here are a few key ways they’ll help you get organized in your product manager role:

  • Preparation: The process of setting up a Gantt chart will help you understand the tasks involved in a project, who should be responsible for which tasks, how long tasks will take, and any roadblocks your team may come across. This way, the project will have well-defined roles, an effective schedule, and a plan for risk mitigation before it starts.
  • Progress visualization: The chart is a great way to visualize a timeline of the project’s progress as well as how the tasks required to complete it overlap. It’ll clarify the minimum time required to deliver the project, and which tasks must be completed before others can be started. They are also useful for identifying the critical path: the sequence of tasks that must be completed in order for the project to be delivered on time.
  • Project alignment: Each time you update the chart, everyone involved in the project (your team, other teams, and stakeholders) will stay informed about project progress and updates.
  • Familiarity: Because Gantt charts have been around for such a long time, there’s a wealth of software and supporting materials to guide you.

Build a Reporting View With Unito

Even if the team working on a project doesn’t report directly to you, Unito can help you see what’s going on. With a reporting view workflow, product managers can easily define key tasks within projects and get real-time updates on any comments, changes, or reassignments made to those tasks.

This hierarchical reporting system gives middle management a bird’s-eye view of task progress, and keeps managers and executives in the loop on what’s happening day-to-day. This way, when things start to go off the rails, course corrections can be made quickly.

Here’s how it works:

  1. Tasks labeled “Key Tasks” from the lowest level of the workflow hierarchy get synced to a Trello board
  2. Mid-level reports are generated for middle managers, pulling in “Key Tasks” from various projects
  3. A new Trello board gets created for C-level executives
  4. “Key Tasks” at the middle management level get synced to the C-level Trello board
  5. The C-level reporting view provides a big picture view of all the key tasks across all projects

Product management 101 tip: Reports are essential

There are all kinds of reports. Some are best for specific projects, while others can be applied to just about every aspect of running your organization. They’re not all created equal though, and some will be more useful than others. Examples of essential reports include variance reports, risk reports, project health reports, and time tracking reports.

Learn more about these reports

Product management 101: managing teams and work

Incorporate Daily Asynchronous Scrums

A daily scrum meeting is an efficient way of ensuring the team is focused, aligned, communicating, and addressing blockers.  Typically, team members review:

  1. What did you do yesterday?
  2. What are you doing today?
  3. Is anything  blocking you from moving forward?

However teams don’t necessarily have time to meet every day. Which is why asynchronous scrums, done via Slack channels for example, are best.

Put Everything in the Task Tracker

If you’re using a task tracker, get a little overzealous about how you’re using it.

This means that everything goes into the task tracker. No exceptions.

It’ll give the team complete visibility into the project’s progress and updates, and reduces back-and-forth discussion, redundant work, and confusion. When everyone is in the loop, it makes it easier to stay organized in a product manager role.

Have Effective Sprint Meetings

A sprint is a set period of time during which specific work must be completed and ready for review. During a sprint meeting, the team decides which tasks to complete in the next sprint period, and prioritizes them. Most teams plan weekly sprints, however sprint periods can be any length of time.

Sprint meetings boost organization because they clarify expectations and makes sure everyone understands their responsibilities. They also keep everyone on the same page, and minimize miscommunication and confusion.

Here are some tips for an effective sprint:

  • Be ready: Make sure team members are prepared for the sprint.
  • Set doable sprint goals: Ensure that the goals are small enough to complete during the sprint, and ideally within a few days. If tasks are too big, split them into smaller pieces.
  • Clarify what DONE means: Ask your team to visualize what the product will look like after the sprint is done, and how they will demonstrate the goal is complete. This shifts the team’s mindset from simply talking about the goals to how they will be delivered and presented.
  • Address new info: If there are any potential issues, concerns, or updates that might affect the plan, discuss them. Discuss dependencies discovered during the planning as well.
  • Reflect on the last sprint period: Chat about what went well, what didn’t, and how future sprints could be improved.
  • Groom the list of to-do’s: Take time to add/subtract tasks that are new or are completed.

Being a product manager doesn’t mean you have to be in a state of constant disorder. The key is to build an organizational system that works for you.