Remote Product Management Tips & Tricks
The recent shift to work from home due to COVID-19 has left many of us grappling to adjust to the “new normal”. Continuous collaboration and effective communication are critical to success in the world of a product manager. So, how might one have to adapt their process and communication for successful remote product management?
To bring together the product Core community and learn from each other how we can best work during these times, we hosted a “Remote Product Management Tips & Tricks” panel with a few experts who have seen it all. Joining us for our event were:
Here are some remote product management tips and tricks we uncovered from product leaders who “zoomed in” from around the country! You can also catch the full recorded discussion below:
1. Eliminate Bias
As a remote product manager, it’s important to continue to be as close to your users as possible, despite not having a physical reminder of them around you every day in an office setting. Listen to sales calls (or previous recordings). Lean on your user research team. Jump on calls with customer success. Listen closely to customer feedback and don’t assume that your customers need what you think they need. Especially now during COVID-19, when typical channels to gather product research and feedback may not exist. It’s important to adapt and look at the market on a micro-level. Are you building for the user today, or what they’ll need 6 months or 18 months from now?
2. Develop Trust
Now more than ever, it is important to develop trust with your customers. As Raveena mentioned, for Headspace this means relying on scientific claims. It’s important to listen with empathy and respond in an empathetic way. Don’t promise or oversell, but be a resource for your customers and help solve their pain points.''For us, it’s really about listening with empathy and responding in an empathetic way.'' - Raveena Lally, Product Manager at @Headspace Click To Tweet
3. Be Thoughtful About Communication Channels
Everyone has a unique way of working. Some people prefer quick video calls, while others appreciate a Slack or email. To avoid frustration, let your team know how you prefer to work (i.e. you tend to write emails late at night, you have focus time from 1-3pm every day, etc.). And recognize that people’s ways of working are changing as we adjust to this “new normal,” so a channel or approach that worked for them previously may not work for them now. Seek feedback often from those on your team to create a feedback loop and ensure alignment. Additionally, creating targeted channels to share information (i.e. a channel dedicated to communicating updates from the product team complete with pre-recorded demos) is a helpful way to streamline communication.
4. Use Clear Artifacts
Communicating information incredibly clearly becomes even more important when a team is entirely remote. Using features such “suggestion mode” on Google docs or “live document update changes” on Dropbox Paper allows co-workers to collaborate with ease. Additionally, if you want to be concise and convey a point of view, taking some time to write a concise document or product brief can help align distributed stakeholders.''If you're struggling to collaborate, the writing process can serve as a useful foundation for collaboration because it forces you to be more thoughtful and have some structure to the way that you’re thinking.'' - @lukethomas14, CEO… Click To Tweet
5. Set Clear Intentions for All Meetings
If you are the owner of a meeting, you should set a clear goal. Is the purpose to decide, commit, or to consult? Of all the participants in the room, what are you trying to get out of this meeting? Are these the right people to invite? Is this meeting the right way to accomplish this goal? Now is the time to evaluate if there are other ways to achieve what you were hoping to. Once everyone is on the call, align on the same principles before the meeting even starts, then structure the conversation effectively to get to the right outcome. It’s easy to clutter schedules with meetings, leaving co-workers with no focus time. Picking a day of the week that has no meetings or setting a Slack status to “focus time” can help preserve productivity. Additionally, a standup video call or Slack check-in can replace some meetings and ensure everyone on the team is kept in the loop.''The deep intention in what you’re doing is harder to get across because you have fewer opportunities to gauge someone’s perspective... it’s really easy to be misaligned. Operating with intention is super critical.'' - Jon… Click To Tweet
6. Create a Lasting Process
As you’re trying all of these new techniques, it’s important to pick some routines that stick. If you spot someone that has created a best practice in their squad or team, emulate it across the entire product organization. Decide what works and what doesn’t work as a team, and stick to it. It’s also vital to zero in on missing links within the process and streamline them. These fixes can have a huge boost in morale and efficiency further down the line.
It can be tough to adjust to an entirely new routine, especially during such a tumultuous time Our panel highlighted that purposeful and intentional communication coupled with staying as close to your customers and users are key pillars to building a great product, now more than ever.
Here are a few more resources to check out:
The Year Without Pants: WordPress.com and the Future of Work
InVision Remote Resources
Remote: Office Not Required (Basecamp)
Zapier on remote work
Silicon Valley Product Group – Working from home
Type 1 and Type 2 Decisions from Jeff Bezos
Friday on Remote Work
As product people, we’d be remiss if we didn’t highlight some of our favorite remote and asynchronous work tools:
1. FridayApp: Create custom team stand ups and workflow to keep up with your teammates in an asynchronous way.
2. Remote HQ: Co-browse and co-edit any web app, share files, take notes, whiteboard, screen share, video chat, and more. All in a single browser tab.
3. Drift Video: If you want to send a product demo or talk through a concept instead of writing a long email, use Drift Video!
4. Zoom: Zoom is a great platform for video calls and meetings, but using Zoom to host office hours for your team is another great way to stay connected. Add a fun background for a daily theme!
5. Figma, Miro, and Google Jamboard: Collaborate in a real-time environment for everything from sketching to whiteboarding, and all the way to creating final designs.