Table of Contents
IntroductionBrian begins the course with a summary of who the course is designed for and a tour of the course website. There are many paths to becoming a good product manager. While this course is geared more toward those in technical or engineering roles, the concepts can easily be applied across many industries.
What Is Product Management
Product vs Project ManagementBrian begins highlighting a product manager's role by comparing it with adjacent management positions. While a product manager may need to help with project management, the core responsibility of a project manager is to keep a team aligned on the work required and when it will be delivered.
Program & Marketing ManagementBrian explains that companies may refer to product managers as program managers or technical program managers. Companies may also have a product marketing manager responsible for the "go-to-market" plan.
What a Product Manager DoesBrian explains a product manager, or PM is the glue that holds a team together. A PM ideates and organizes ideas from others, prioritizes work, creates plans/roadmaps, and does whatever a team needs to be effective.
Hard Parts of Product ManagementBrian shares some difficult aspects of product management. Meetings and communication are a significant part of the job. It can also be difficult for former engineers to feel productive since accomplishments are not measured in pushes to Git repositories.
Reasons to Become a Product ManagerBrian shares the exciting aspects of product management. Developing strategy, working with a wide range of people from engineers to end users, and the variety of work are reasons a person maybe be drawn to product management.
What is a StakeholderBrian explains that stakeholders are affected by a product manager's decisions about a product. They may be end users, business owners, third-party developers, etc.
Stakeholder Example: Improving an APIBrian shares a thought exercise for identifying how improving an API may affect the API's stakeholders. Questions about managing timelines and work estimates are also discussed in this lesson.
Google Maps ExerciseStudents are instructed to list the stakeholders involved in adding a feature that makes ordering food easier on Google Maps. Pros and cons of this feature should also be listed for each stakeholder.
Communication & Technical Writing
Understanding the AudienceBrian stresses the importance of understanding the targeted audience of a communication. A communication addressing a group of engineers will have different goals than a memo sent to a large organization. Highlighting what is known of an audience and what is needed from them will help shape better communication channels.
Context SharingBrian recommends reducing the surface area of communications as much as possible to avoid tangents and off-topic discussions. If a consensus has already been reached, there's no need for additional discussion.
Communication PreparationBrian explains that Product Managers spend a lot of time preparing for all the questions they might receive while only communicating 5% of the information they prepared. This is because communications shouldn't be longer than necessary. The importance of technical writing is also discussed in this lesson.
Communication ExerciseStudents are instructed to analyze the audience, goals, and details of three product pitches and identify any issues or ways the pitches could be improved.
Communication SolutionBrian talks through the solution to the Communication exercise.
Technical WritingBrian shares tips for applying the previously covered communication skills to technical writing. Understanding the audience and keeping the message concise can increase the effectiveness of communicating the email, memo, or slide deck. Receiving valuable feedback is also discussed in this lesson.
FormattingBrian explains that proper formatting can drastically improve the effectiveness of written communication. Most readers skim documents. Headings, bolding, and colors can succinctly pull out the key points and draw the eye of a reader.
Formatting ExerciseStudents are instructed to copy and paste a project status update into a word processor like Google Docs and format the text to articulate the message better.
DiagramsBrian recommends using visuals like charts and diagrams to organize and tell a story. These visual aids can be created with tools like Google Drawings, Excalidraw or professional design tools like Photoshop, Illustrator, or Figma.
Diagramming ExerciseStudents are instructed to diagram the project's status from the Formatting exercise. The visualization should emphasize the overlapping nature of the work remaining in the project.
Executive SummariesBrian stresses the importance of executive summaries. The goal of a successful executive summary is to communicate the key takeaways of a document with as little filler information as possible.
Executive Summaries ExerciseStudents are instructed to write an executive summary for the project status update from the Formatting exercise.
Meetings & Metrics
Meetings OverviewBrian introduces a few fundamental principles for successful meetings. For example, understanding who is in the room and the context required to communicate the desired message.
Meeting PreparationBrian explains that meeting preparation strategies will vary depending on the level of importance. No matter how in-depth the preparation, a meeting organizer should set intentions, provide an agenda, timebox agenda items, and come to the meeting with a decision already in place.
Meetings Q&ABrian answers questions about meeting preparation and shares some public speaking advice for introverted individuals.
Running a MeetingBrian shares the importance of owning meetings and the difference between good and bad tangents. Preemptively addressing known issues helps meeting organizers control the conversation and flow of the meeting.
Meetings ExerciseStudents are instructed to create a meeting agenda from the memo from the Formatting exercise.
Stats & GraphsBrian emphasizes the critical role statistics and graphs play for a product manager to communicate a message. Choosing the appropriate chart for a data set is important and the use of pie charts is discouraged.
Team MetricsBrian explains that metrics are crucial to product management because it's evidence and help define the success or failure of a given mission. An example of team metrics at Netflix is also discussed in this lesson.
Project MetricsBrian explains why any project should affect team metrics. A PM should write down the problem the project is trying to solve and the metrics used to measure its success. The CSAT or customer satisfaction metric is also discussed in this lesson.
Metrics ExerciseStudents are instructed to identify what metrics should be tracked for each project and the affected company-wide metrics.
User StoriesBrian recommends creating user stories by filling in the blanks: "As a [blank], I want to [blank]". This helps create a user story from the perspective of the end-user rather than the perspective of a product manager.
Product SpecBrian introduces the product spec and shares a few variations used by different companies. Whether it's referred to as a ticket, statement of work, or proposal, a product specification is the most important document to a product manager. It describes a parcel of work and the steps required to accomplish it.
BLUF, Problem Statement, & GoalsBrian defines the BLUF (executive summary), problem statement, and how to define the goals of a project clearly. A product specification should include one of your team's metrics, or at the very least, company core metrics.
Rollback Criteria, Timelines, & MockupsBrian encourages project managers to define clear rollback criteria for when a team would stop working on a project and revert to a previous state. Tips for creating timelines and design mockups are also discussed in this lesson.
Example Product SpecBrian shares an example product spec. The sections of the product spec are organized by priority: BLUF, Problem Statement, Goals, Key Metrics, Rollback Criteria, Timelines, UI Mocks, Outstanding Questions, and Appendix.
Product Spec ExerciseStudents are instructed to write a product spec for any product idea. Suggested product ideas can be found on in the course website linked below.
Fit into the OrganizationBrian recommends shaping a planning process to align with the existing culture and organization. It's challenging to gain a consensus if the process doesn't fit. In some cases this may mean product managers focus on strategy while engineering managers create the plan.
Starting the Planning ProcessBrian shares tips for starting the planning process. Starting by getting ideas on paper helps with the writing process. Not all ideas need to come from a product manager. Projects should also be completable and have tangible milestones if there is a long timeline.
Cutlines & RoadmapsBrian recommends defining a cutline that defines additional work that could be performed given more resources. Also, product features should not be added to a roadmap unless a product spec is created and it has been researched.
PrioritizingBrian provides two tools that are helpful when prioritizing projects. Comparing the complexity to business value splits the risk into effort and impact. The RICE method takes a more scientific approach, allowing product managers to associate a score with each task.
Planning ExerciseStudents are instructed to create a prioritized roadmap for the proposed tasks along with a cutline for additional features.