Why Product Managers Need Checklists In Order To Be Successful

by drjim on October 6, 2014

Having a checklist means never forgetting to do something important…

Having a checklist means never forgetting to do something important…

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Let’s face it, being a product manager means that there are a lot of different things that you are responsible for accomplishing. Many of these things are very small details, a few are medium sized tasks, and just a couple may be very large. However, if you “drop the ball” on any of the things that have to be done you may put the success of your product at risk. How can a product manager become perfect and never forget to do everything that has to be done?

The Power Of Checklists

Let’s spend just a moment thinking about all of the different things that a product manager does: collects requirements, creates a product development definition, creates a roadmap, oversees product development, creates collateral, works trade shows, meets with press, trains sales, etc. Each one of these tasks has a long list of subtasks associated with it that all need to be accomplished.

I can only speak for myself, but there is no way that I can ever remember everything that I have to do. It gets even harder when you realize that a product manager is always multitasking – we’ll work on one thing for a while and then we’ll have to switch to another task before we can come back and work on what we were working on once again. It’s pretty easy to see how things can start to fall through the cracks.

Forgetting things is not something that will look good on your product manager resume.

This is exactly the type of problem that a checklist is designed to solve. By taking the time before you start a project to write down all of the individual tasks that you’ll have to perform in order for the project to be successful, you’ll have a master list of what needs to be done. As you accomplish the varied tasks, you can check them off your list. You’ll always know how much more work you have to do and you’ll know when you have finally completed the project.

How To Use Checklists To Be A Better Product Manager

Now this may all sound great for you; however, how can a product manager use a checklist in the real world. Well, I’ve got some great news for you: I’ve just completed a project where checklists stepped in and saved my life.

I had created a series of books about my product that I had self-published though Amazon. This had been very successful and my books were now appearing on Amazon’s bookshelves and were being bought. However, I soon discovered that my books were not available via iTunes or available to be purchased at Barns & Nobel. I had to do something to solve this problem.

The answer was to upload electronic copies of my books to a service called Smashwords. They would then sell my books through these additional channels. My problem was that each one of my ebooks had to be edited and changed in order to meet the Smashwords book format. In fact it turned out that 30 different edits needed to be made to each one of my books. There was no way that I was ever going to be able to remember to make all of these edits.

I solved this problem by going through my first book and discovering what edits had to be made. Each time I submitted the book to Smashwords it would be rejected and they would tell me why. I would make a change and document it in a list that I was creating in an Excel spreadsheet. By the time Smashwords finally accepted my ebook, I had a list that contained 30 different steps. From then on it was a simple process to use that checklist to convert my other books to the proper format. I never had Smashwords reject another one of my ebooks and I was able to accomplish my conversion project in under a week!

What All Of This Means For You

Product managers know that success lies in the details of the job. Each one of the tasks that we have to do has a million small tasks associated with it. We need to successfully accomplish these tasks in order to be a successful product manager.

This really should be part of every product manager job description.

Since there is no way that we can possibly ever remember everything that we have to do, we need to learn to use checklists. By taking the time to create a checklist we are able to identify everything that we’re going to have to do. Using a checklist also allows us to determine how far along we are in a task and we can determine when we are finally done.

Checklists are part of how product managers are successful. Take the time to create good checklists once and they will serve you each time you have to accomplish a task. Everyone will be very impressed with your attention to detail; however, you’ll be the only one who knows what your secret is!

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World Product Management Skills™

Question For You: Do you think that a product manager should share his or her checklists with other people on the team?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

As product manager living and working in the 21st Century, we all know about the importance of social media. Many of us have probably already added these skills to our product manager resume. However, discovering just exactly how to make the best use of these new tools that allow us to get in contact with our customers is still something that we are all struggling with. What we need is some expert guidance on which social media tools we should be using and just exactly how to go about using them.

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