Being a Product Manager is hard work, being a successful product manager is even harder. Wouldn’t we all like to have a secret weapon that would allow us to cut through all of the roadblocks that others seem to be constantly throwing up all around us?
Just imagine if there was some way to get everyone to actually do what they have promised that they would do. Wouldn’t that at least be a step in the right direction? We’ve talked in the past about other powerful tools that all product managers have at their disposal, but I’ve been saving the best for now.
It is a simple and perhaps sad fact of modern business life that nobody (including you) has enough time to get everything done anymore. What this means is that actions that people agreed to do during meetings, requests that you’ve made, and pleas that you’ve sent via email will probably mostly get ignored.
Yes, there is a possibility that people aren’t doing what you need them to do because they don’t like you. However, to not like someone takes energy so it’s more likely that people are probably blowing you off because they’ve got too much other higher priority work that needs to be done. Sorry, you lose.
This should be a big deal to you. The modern product manager really does not create anything – instead we work with and through others to get things done. Our dirty little secret is that nobody works for us and so we really don’t have any authority to demand that things get done. Instead, we can only ask. That phrase “all the responsibility, none of the authority” was really created for us.
It’s almost enough to make a hard working product manger throw his/her hands up in the air and give up. But wait – before you do that, I’ve got good news for you – there is a secret weapon that you can use to make your life better.
This secret weapon is called “the follow-up”. No, wait – don’t stop reading now! Trust me on this one, the follow-up has the ability to change your life (I know this because it changed my life). The reason that I like to call this a secret weapon is because amazingly enough it really does seem to be a secret – almost nobody else is using it!
Here’s a typical scenario that this secret weapon can come into play in: you attend a meeting, a discussion occurs, actions are created and assigned, the meeting is over and everyone leaves. All too often, that’s it – nobody ever follows up on those actions. This means that the same topics will be revisited in another meeting, more actions will be assigned, and those actions won’t be followed-up on either. And so on, and so on.
As a product manager with your new follow-up secret weapon, you can take charge of the actions that you care about. Make sure that each of them has a clear owner before the meeting breaks up. Also make sure that each action has an associated due date. Once this is done, you need to make yourself a “follow-up checklist”.
This checklist will tell you who you need to hound in order to make sure that they complete their actions on time. This list will grow once you start including outstanding emails on it. How many times have you sent an email with a question to someone and then forgotten about it (and they have too!)? Not any more, now when you send that email w/ a question, add it to your follow-up checklist.
What’s going to happen is very quickly you are going to take on the demeanor of a bulldog in your work environment. People are going to start to realize that when you are promised information, you are not going to let up until you get it. This means that the people who owe you info will move it up their priority list.
Yes, I know that this sounds like a very simple secret weapon; however, it’s power is not to be underestimated. Give it a try and I think that you’ll be pleased with the results.
Do you have trouble getting coworkers to provide you with the information and answers that you need? Do actions that get assigned during meetings get answered or do they get forgotten? Have you ever asked a question in an email that didn’t get answered and that you then forgot about? Leave me a comment and let me know what you are thinking.