60: The 12 most important soft skills every product manager needs

I’m often asked what skills a product manager needs. In my view at least, a good product manager needs both ‘soft’ skills (emotional intelligence) and ‘hard’ skills (product management techniques).

Read on for my list of the 12 most important soft skills a product manager needs.

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59: Find the tipping point in your research

I bet you’ve found yourself in this situation. You’re trying to get your head around the main user problem your new product is going to solve. The thing is, for every question you try to answer, several more questions arise.

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57: Cut through red tape

I enjoy being a product manager, although on some days I question whether my level of patience is suited to my chosen career. When working somewhere, I often spot opportunities for them to improve, gain a competitive advantage or reduce wasted effort, then become terribly frustrated when bureaucracy and organisational inertia prevent me from moving quickly enough to exploit them. If this feels familiar, read on.

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56: The coffee shop problem

During a class I was giving the other day over at Edtech, we were looking at possible risks that might affect the theoretical products we were discussing. One team of students was hotly debating the relative importance of one of the risks. They couldn’t agree how much of a problem it would be if they discovered that something similar already existed on the market. I call this The Coffee Shop Problem.

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55: How to beat writer’s block

I’m writing about one hundred things I’ve learned as a product manager.

For a variety of reasons, in the last few months I’ve fallen out of the habit of writing regularly. And just as I fool myself that having a gym membership is the same as exercising regularly, so also I need to remind myself that blogs don’t write themselves.

Over the last few months I’ve been working with another set of great, challenging and occasionally misguided clients. They’ve been pleased with the results I’d helped them to achieve, and I’ve been able to learn a huge amount from working with them.

In turn, this has given me plenty to write about on the topics of product management, user research and changing the way organisations work and behave, so I’ll be sharing this with you bit by bit over the next few articles.

But as a writing warm-up – I don’t want my writing muscle to cramp – here are a few of my procrastination-beating tips for beating writer’s block.

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54: How to stop common B2B dysfunctions in the product team

For those of you who work in business-to-business (B2B) companies, how many of these sound familiar?

“Our product team is always called in to fight customer fires post-sale.”

“Sales people bring product managers along to answer customers’ techie questions.”

“The product team isn’t allowed to speak to customers unless they’re in a sales meeting.”

“Our sales team will often sell something that doesn’t exist, then make it the product team’s problem to make it happen.”

“Our product backlog is full of priority feature requests that the sales person says the customer needs before they’ll purchase.”

You’re not going crazy – nor are you alone. These are common dysfunctions plaguing product teams in B2B companies the world over.

How do you stop them happening? Read on for some suggestions.

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53: THIS is what product-market fit looks like

Product-market fit is one of those concepts that seems relatively straightforward in theory but ends up being elusive in practice. Finding your way to product-market fit is an iterative process reliant on lots of appropriate, good quality research and validation, also known as customer development. But what does product-market fit actually look like when you get there?

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52: It only takes one bottleneck

600x712_SmartGates AustraliaI’m writing about one hundred things I’ve learned as a product manager.

I was working for a month in Australia a little while ago. On my arrival I was initially really impressed by the slick service design of their automated SmartGate immigration process. Until I found myself back to having to fill in declaration cards with a pen, that is. It just goes to show that good design work can be easily undermined by one poorly thought-out step in the process.

(In a rare flash of common sense, I thought it prudent to publish this article some time after I’d safely made it back to the UK. Y’know, just in case…)

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51: Assemble the right product team

I’m writing about one hundred things I’ve learned as a product manager.

The UK Government now has many digital teams based on the blueprint established by the Government Digital Service (GDS). I’ve worked in Ministry of Justice (MOJ) Digital, and in turn closely with GDS as a service assessor for the MOJ.

These government digital teams have a way to ensure their digital services and products are created in the right way. In this post I’ll share with you how they do this and explain how you can make it work at your organisation.

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