Make yourself "Redundant"
Updated: Jan 25, 2020
Heavily rely on your team to make daily decisions in order to help you focus on the long-term strategy.
The Illusion of Importance
As product managers, especially those that had been engineers before, you can sometime feel insecure in your position and contribution. This feeling may be enhanced due to many people not actually understanding the role of product management.
If you transitioned into product management because you wanted to be the one making the decisions (the wrong reason by the way), your ego will sometimes tell you that that you need to be involved in all of the decisions of the team (i.e., be everywhere and do everything).
Once you do it, your ego will be very satisfied and you may feel very good for a short time. However, behaving this way is disastrous for the following reasons I outline below.
An Empowered Team
Good engineers do not want to be told what to do. They are creative, have great ideas and have a sense of ownership. If you take it all upon yourself you lose both their trust and passion as well as their creativeness. Everybody loses: you, them, and most of all the product.
You should let your ego rest. It really doesn’t matter who makes the decisions as long as the decisions taken are the right ones. It doesn’t really matter whose ideas win, as long as the right ideas are promoted. Your job is to steer the ship in the right direction, utilizing the power of the wind and the waves.
Involve your team in the discovery process and the ideation as much as possible. Try to focus on depicting the general direction and the important goals instead of defining how to overcome each bump on the road. I suggest to further read about dual-track agile for more about how to work together with your team and empower them.
The other side of the equation is you: the product manager. I have seen too many product managers too busy on the day to day work because they did not manage to make themselves not needed.
On the short term, your goal should actually be to make yourself almost redundant. It means you have a great team that works with you and that you managed to build great processes with them. It enables them to not rely on you on the daily things and enable you to work on more strategic things.
You don’t want to make yourself irreplaceable on the short term. This will exhaust you and will result only in short term wins. You want to make yourself count and impactful for the long term. You want to be the one that takes an already great team that already delivers great value and help them focus even more and achieve greater things.
Find time to Stare at the Wall
Unless your team is really understaffed, you are in a week in which you travel, meet customers, launch a product or attend a workshop, if you find yourself in your daily work not having enough time and chasing tasks around the clock, something is wrong. If you spend all your time maintaining the backlog instead of thinking, researching and talking with your team and your users, it is time to wake up. If you say too much “I don’t have time …” to meet with college product managers, to read about the competition or other important stuff, to meet with your mentor, to think strategy, to learn more, to innovate in unplanned corridor discussions, or even just to stare at the wall and “ponder” about the future, this is the time to do something about it and make yourself more redundant.
There is usually no such thing as “I don’t have time …”. We all have too many things on our plate, and a product manager’s work is usually around the clock. It’s more about choosing the right priorities. It’s not different from prioritizing a backlog. Every time you choose something to do, there is something you have chosen not to do. Just like you need to learn to say “no” to features, you need to learn to tell yourself “no” to some tasks that are of less priority.
On your role is not to write requirement I wrote about the things you should focus on and how you should work on the things that move the needle or block your team. To fund those things and work on them you need to free time. You can't do it if you are all the time chasing your daily tasks.
I am not saying you should not work hard.