22/30: Mastering Business Communication
Communication is a key skill for product managers. The job requires regular interaction with a vast array of both internal and external stakeholders, business partners, customers, and colleagues. But all forms of communication don’t come naturally to everyone.
What are important modes of communication for PMs?
Keeping internal stakeholders apprised of where things stand with product development. While I don’t advocate PMs should turn into status report machines, those who ignore the rest of their org are committing acts of negligence that will come back to haunt you. You need to help the org understand what is going on, how it affects the org, and what might be expected of it at various stages of product development.
Keeping customers and users aware of your product vision and direction. Customers don’t buy products — they buy solutions. And sometimes they will buy a visionary solution. Customers will pay for a reasonable promise of a solution yet to come. And the best way to generate the trust necessary to buy into a future vision is to deliver in the now.
Keeping your team aware of the context in which they operate. Too many product managers and even product leaders fail to bring the strategic context from which their work originates to their teams. It’s easier to generate buy-in if your team knows what’s going on behind the scenes and understands why the company wishes to move in a certain direction. Their awareness of the context also yields better business outcomes as a result of better product decision-making.
So what can you do?
Write more! I am not advocating for a return to PRDs (personally I have always been against them), but a good product strategy one-pager, a product brief explaining one of the bets on your roadmap, or even just a few bulletpoints describing your discovery learnings relevant to others in your org — all these will take you far. Different formats and content work for different companies, so experiment until you find the sweet spot. But write, write, and keep on writing. Just remember to keep it concise (ironic advice, given the length of this post, I know)!
Demo your product! A lot of product teams are afraid to show their work. Don’t be! Show your prototypes, sketches, wireframes, doodles. Show the first versions, the rough edges, whatever. But make sure to tie it into the narrative of the problem you are solving, and don’t overwhelm people by throwing ALL of your research at them.
Invite collaborators! Forget about dry emails and Slack announcements. Bring people closer into your world, and let them understand the work of the product team. You won’t need to give status updates to collaborators — they’ll ask you questions and work with you to answer them.