Why are so few product management organizations proactive? The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines the word proactive as: “controlling a situation by making things happen or by preparing for possible future problems“.
Successful product management leaders enjoy the opportunity to shape the future direction of their products and angle the organization toward success. They are also very effective at anticipating obstacles to the teams’ success and mitigating risks that can undermine results.
Yet when you take a step back and look at the number of product management organizations that are truly proactive the number is quite low.
There are a wide variety of reasons why the product management function never achieves a proactive state. These include; continuously changing direction from senior leadership, under-emphasis on the strategic elements of product management (appropriate context), insufficient resources or talent, poor definition of the product management function and/or role, and innumerable other factors.
In order to optimize the product management function product management leaders need to start by providing context for others to understand where product management is headed and also clearly define roles and responsibilities. With the basic infrastructure in place you can take the next step and implement a tool that illustrates that the product management function is a well-oiled machine whose underlying processes are understood and repeatable.
One means of proactively illustrating that your product management processes are under control is to publish an annual product management calendar. A typical product management calender will likely include many of these events:
- Advisory council meetings
- Roadmap planning sessions
- Roadmap publication dates
- Cross-functional team meetings
- Executive steering committee reviews
- Annual pricing and forecasting submission dates
- Annual sales meetings
- Customer events
By publishing a functional calendar you are proactively managing the expectations of your cross-functional partners and stakeholders and helping them more effectively plan their time in support of your shared organizational goals. A calendar also communicates that product management has an established process that underlies these individual activities and that product management’s activities are not random – rather they are well thought out and sequenced to optimize results.
Organizations benefit from clearly communicated information and in the absence of communication it is human nature to fill in the blanks – often in ways that detract from results. If you want to visually demonstrate proactive product management implement a product management calendar.
A product management calendar injects transparency and predictability into the equation – qualities that are highly valued and frequently rewarded by organizations.
Greg Geracie is a recognized thought leader in the field of product management and the President of Actuation Consulting, a global provider of product management consulting, training, and advisory services to some of the world’s most well-known organizations. Greg is also the author of the global best seller Take Charge Product Management. He is also an adjunct professor at DePaul University’s College of Computing and Digital Media where he teaches graduate and undergraduate courses on high-tech and digital product management.