How To Succeed In Product Management | Jeffrey Shulman, Red Russak & Soumeya Benghanem
89: Empowering Good Decision-Making
The episode covers the Inclusive Product Management Accelerator program, decision-making in product management, empowering newer product managers, including people in decision-making, understanding higher level goals and data, challenges in large matrix organizations, strategic decision-making, balancing leadership involvement, adapting to new and ambiguous decisions, learning from mistakes, and allowing others to make decisions. The episode concludes with gratitude and an invitation to explore the topic further.
Empowering good decision-making is crucial for inclusivity and talent retention.
Empowering product managers to make good decisions is important for creating an inclusive environment and retaining talented individuals.
Including individuals in the decision-making process helps them feel valued and provides insight into why decisions are made.
When people are included in the decision-making process, they feel valued and gain a better understanding of the rationale behind decisions.
Understanding the culture and expectations around decision-making is important.
To make effective decisions, it is crucial to understand the culture and expectations related to decision-making within an organization.
Balancing the desire to get involved with knowing when to let go is a challenge for leaders.
Leaders need to find a balance between being involved in decision-making and knowing when to trust their team and let them make decisions on their own.
Being agile and adaptable is necessary when addressing new and ambiguous decisions in a growing product.
In a rapidly evolving product, being agile and adaptable is essential when making decisions that are new or ambiguous.
Allowing someone to make a mistake can be a valuable learning opportunity, especially for individuals who tend to avoid taking risks.
Giving individuals the freedom to make mistakes can lead to valuable learning experiences, particularly for those who are risk-averse.
Sometimes the impact of a decision requires providing information to higher levels of management, so building a narrative becomes important.
In certain cases, decisions may have a significant impact that requires sharing information with higher levels of management. Building a narrative around the decision can help communicate its importance.
Pairing junior PMs with more experienced PMs who excel in specific areas can help build confidence and mentorship.
Pairing junior product managers with experienced mentors who excel in specific areas can help build confidence and provide valuable mentorship.
Leaders need to empower teams by sharing information, power, responsibility, respect, and knowledge.
To empower teams, leaders should share information, power, responsibility, respect, and knowledge.
The episode emphasizes the importance of empowered decision making for retention, happiness, and inclusion.
Empowered decision-making is crucial for retaining talent, promoting happiness, and fostering inclusivity within organizations.
- The Inclusive Product Management Accelerator
- Including People in Decision-Making
- Communicating and Understanding Decision-Making
- Strategic Decision-Making and Balancing Involvement
- Balancing Leadership Involvement
- Adapting to New and Ambiguous Decisions
- Learning from Mistakes and Allowing Others to Make Decisions
- Closing Thoughts and Gratitude
The Inclusive Product Management Accelerator
00:00 - 07:01
- The Inclusive Product Management Accelerator is a 12-week program for aspiring product managers, sponsored by T-Mobile and Starbucks.
- Product managers need support and empowerment in decision-making.
- Decision-making in product management involves complexity, frameworks, experience, intuition, and data.
- Balancing the empowerment of newer product managers with their less refined instincts is a challenge.
- Michelle, a senior director at T-Mobile, shares her journey in product management.
- Empowering good decision-making is crucial for inclusivity and talent retention.
- Contributing to decisions even if not making the final call helps people feel included and valued.
Including People in Decision-Making
06:41 - 13:42
- When including people in decision-making, it's important to ask questions and understand their contributions.
- Including individuals in the decision-making process helps them feel valued and provides insight into why decisions are made.
- Senior leaders in product management discuss challenges and seek different perspectives on theory versus practice.
- Product managers should understand decision-making and voice their understanding of the rationale behind decisions.
- If product managers disagree with decisions, they can approach the problem differently three times before accepting the outcome.
- Leaders can create an environment of psychological safety by challenging their team to speak up about concerns or disagreements.
- In large matrix organizations, product managers may not have full decision-making authority, so defining communication pathways and framing long-term communications can help increase their influence.
- Leadership has a broader view of products and goals, so understanding their perspective is important for effective communication.
Communicating and Understanding Decision-Making
13:16 - 20:08
- Communicate in a way that considers the long term
- Understand the higher level goals and data across the board
- Acknowledge that you don't see everything and can't decide on everything
- Share compelling data with others over the long term
- Coach teams to be empowered and optimistic about their role
- Mistakes are likely when making decisions with unintended impact
- Encourage PMs to ask questions and understand decision complexity and impact
- Consider what data is needed for decisions from a CEO's perspective
- Apply different levels of rigor to different decisions, allowing for certain risks
- No fail-proof answer to avoiding unintended impact
- Consider better communication about decision-making levels and frameworks for decision-making questions
- Acceptance that learning happens along the way in decision-making processes
- 'Front page of the New York Times' test may not apply to most decisions today due to media landscape changes
- New challenge with rapid information spread through social media platforms like Reddit and The Verge
- Empowerment requires authority, alignment, impact, and competency
- Clear understanding of where minority of decisions are made in organizations
Strategic Decision-Making and Balancing Involvement
19:48 - 26:41
- Strategic decisions require multiple people and impact more than one feature or customer.
- Different organizations have different criteria for decision-making, such as client impact or personal preference of leaders.
- Understanding the culture and expectations around decision-making is important.
- The sphere of influence may change over time based on making good decisions.
- Breaking down decision-making into specific areas can help in getting more involvement.
- Clarifying the difference between communication and seeking approval can improve decision-making frameworks.
- Balancing the desire to get involved with knowing when to let go is a challenge for leaders.
- Providing corporate standards and agreement on outcomes can empower individuals to make decisions on their own.
- Periodic check-ins may be necessary in early stages of a relationship or when trust is not established yet.
- Self-management is an important characteristic for leaders to understand their tendencies and adjust accordingly.
Balancing Leadership Involvement
26:12 - 33:07
- Balancing getting into the weeds with staying out as a leader
- Being a leader is like being a parent, picking and choosing where you're needed
- Occasional moments of being in the weeds can be challenging and growth opportunities
- Difference between micromanaging and being supportive while being in the weeds
- Five things leaders need to do to empower teams: share information, power, responsibility, respect, and knowledge
- Sharing knowledge delicately and effectively by making it personal and asking leading questions
- Good decision-making is when we learn from the decision towards the desired outcome or anticipated learning
- Deploying the rule of threes to navigate around internal stakeholders or managers who are blocking decisions
Adapting to New and Ambiguous Decisions
32:44 - 39:32
- The right time to ask for a decision is important, as people may be distracted or not in the right headspace at certain times of the day.
- If you disagree with a decision made by someone, try approaching them at a different time and in a different way to have a conversation about it.
- There should be clear decision processes within product management, but there will always be decisions that don't fit into any predefined process.
- Being agile and adaptable is necessary when addressing new and ambiguous decisions in a growing product.
- Common sense should also play a role in decision-making, even if data suggests otherwise.
- Good PMs examine the reasons behind their gut feelings and take the time to understand why they trust or distrust certain individuals' decision-making abilities.
- Pairing junior PMs with more experienced PMs who excel in specific areas can help build confidence and mentorship.
Learning from Mistakes and Allowing Others to Make Decisions
39:17 - 46:15
- Pair individuals who lack confidence in decision-making with someone who excels in that area.
- Engage in dialogue with peers to gain different perspectives and insights.
- When a bad decision is made, ask questions to understand the reasoning behind it and identify any external factors that may have contributed to the negative outcome.
- Focus on learning from the situation and ensuring that patterns of repeating mistakes are not established.
- Sometimes the impact of a decision requires providing information to higher levels of management, so building a narrative becomes important.
- Allowing someone to make a mistake can be a valuable learning opportunity, especially for individuals who tend to avoid taking risks.
- Letting others make their own mistakes depends on the impact and potential for growth.
- Occasionally, stepping back and allowing others to make decisions can reveal blind spots and lead to personal growth.
- Managers often naturally intervene when they see someone about to make a mistake, but there are instances where letting them experience it can be beneficial for both parties involved.
Closing Thoughts and Gratitude
45:59 - 49:06
- Michelle expresses gratitude for the discussion and how it helped her improve decision-making.
- Samia encourages self-reflection on past decisions to determine involvement and necessity.
- Jeff emphasizes the importance of empowered decision making for retention, happiness, and inclusion.
- The podcast concludes with an invitation to dive deeper into the topic and a thank you to T-Mobile for their sponsorship.