Product management is challenging enough onsite, as shown by the Spice Catalyst Product Management Lifecycle Framework. It is complex for product success covering over 130 competencies. It illustrates precisely why the field of product management or product success is so hard, with product managers and their teams expected to, among other things, demonstrate vision and leadership, create product roadmaps, take point in strategy and market research, and even have knowledge of the company’s business model and financials. As a team.
Working remotely, which is now becoming en vogue due to this ongoing pandemic, only complicates things, and makes the job even harder. The reality is there are only so many video calls you can take, and only so many concessions to make in terms of aligning everyone’s schedule so the team can work together. Factor in the added pressure of having very little room for error — one single mistake or misunderstanding can undo a month’s worth of milestones — and you might have a team breaking under the burden of extraordinarily high expectations. A direct consequence of all this is a team that isn’t as productive as they ought to be, thereby compromising the overall quality of work.
But that’s not to say remote product management doesn’t (or can’t) work. You and your team can actually overcome the aforementioned challenges, and raise productivity across the board. The following tips will help:
Communicate clearly, concisely, and consistently
Good communication is a way to build trust, not only with the people you work with (your team) but also with the people you work for (the company). It is also the way to get everyone on the same page, and have them understand fully every step of every task of every project — hence minimizing mistakes due to a misunderstanding. Just make sure that you are clear and concise in your messages, and consistent in initiating conversations.
Being clear means being on-point, and this eliminates ambiguity, confusion, and expectation mismatches. Being concise means crafting your message as briefly as possible without muddling the vital points. This keeps everyone from reading long documents, in turn saving precious time. Being consistent means updating your team regularly, and usually at the same time and manner. This is habit-forming and gives your team time to prepare their questions, comments, or suggestions to ensure eventful exchanges of information. With this, everyone will be guided accordingly.
Emphasize good posture — always
Oftentimes, simple things make the biggest difference. One thing to focus on, in particular, is making sure that everyone on your team knows all about good posture and its vital role in ensuring productivity. Dr. Maj S Bakhtiar Choudhary explains in a Pain Free Working guide on ergonomics that good posture not only aids in preventing neck, back, and wrist injuries, but also helps in ensuring productivity. This is because an employee can work without discomfort and without feeling any pain. This is why you must orient your team on the basics of ergonomics. In this way, everyone will be functioning optimally and will be able to perform to the best of their abilities.
All teams, as noted in a Product Mint article on remote product management, are bound to encounter rough patches, especially those working remotely. Whether due to lack of motivation, stress, or confusion, these episodes are normal and can occur regularly. When this happens, your team will be cumbersome with their tasks, and performance quality will naturally dip. But instead of chastising them, consider giving them a lift-me-up, which can be something as simple as an early morning check-in, or a virtual game, or even an extra day off or two.
But, where possible, look to schedule a physical get-together every month or so, as such events can be most enjoyable, and are great morale boosters. They can, not to mention, allow the members of your team to get to know one another better. This increased familiarity, in turn, will translate to better teamwork that can manifest in increased productivity and improved performance.
Facilitate talent development
Finally, you must make sure that your team is continuously learning, and expanding and improving their skillset. As David Fradin notes in his book Organizing and Managing Insanely Great Products, product managers “need to understand how [new technologies] will affect their products and their customers before they do.” This will necessitate a top-down approach in which you’ll have to work with upper management and HR to create a culture of mobility that will enable your team to learn and develop all the skills they need to be productive. A team equipped with the necessary expertise, in turn, will be a lot more efficient and productive at work.