What does product management mean to you? Everyone’s perception is unique.
Digital product management is a relatively new and constantly evolving concept. In the old days, product management was mainly a marketing function. Today, we have a whole organizational division dedicated to product, where product managers reside.
That said, no company applies product management in the same way. As a result, there’s no single source of truth for where to start with product management.
When I was pursuing my MBA, a professor of mine told me, “You only need to know four things to thrive in business: how to plan, how to organize, how to lead, and how to control.” He was so confident that I got excited to learn more and apply it to my job as a PM.
In this guide, we’ll provide an overview of the four functions of management and explain how they can serve as a guiding light for product managers.
The four functions of management are:
Now let’s demonstrate how to apply these functions to your day-to-day product management activities.
Product management is complex, and teams can get lost without specific boundaries. That’s why the four management functions come in very handy.
Suppose you work for a travel agency and want to expand your services. You’ve created a digital platform that does it all: customers submit their budget, and the platform organizes the whole trip, including transport, accommodation, and local experiences.
Time to start building, right? I’d advise you to pump the brakes, unless you want your teams to run in circles.
Let’s apply the four management functions and see how they aid in product management activities for our travel agency example:
The first step is to set a vision: “Be the biggest travel agency in my state.”
The next step is to develop a plan to get there. Start by crafting a strategy and then define milestones to achieve it. For example, “By the end of Q2, acquire 2,000 new customers and build a social media presence that generates 15 percent of new customers.”
Knowing where to land and having a high-level plan isn’t enough get you there. You have to define how teams are organized and how they should interact.
For example, you might consider using scrum as a working framework, where product managers are responsible for providing directions, goals, and feedback. This way, the team members know how they should collaborate and can focus on reaching the goals.
Now comes the fundamental part. Leading is hard because true leadership is earned and not imposed. Great product managers lead by context, not by control.
The best way to do that is to sharpen your communication skills. Instead of telling teams what to do, tell them why solving specific problems matters and work together to define more suitable solutions.
Only what you measure gets done. Setting a goal and forgetting about it will ensure it isn’t achieved.
As a product manager, you need to monitor the results and question the team whenever they don’t look right. Ideally, you will work with them to define corrective actions whenever necessary. Ensure the team is on track to achieve the goal and act quickly when deviations occur.
The four aspects complement each other. If you fail to implement any of the above, you won’t produce the results you want to see.
As a product manager, you are responsible for overseeing the process of planning, developing, and launching new products or services. This requires a collaborative effort of multiple teams, each contributing unique skills and expertise. However, without a clear direction, it’s easy for teams to become lost, resulting in wasted time, effort, and resources.
This is where the four functions of management come into play. Planning, organizing, leading, and controlling provide a framework for product managers to ensure that their team is moving in the right direction, collaborating effectively, and staying on track to achieve their goals.
The four functions of management can help product managers:
By implementing the four functions of management, product managers can achieve clarity on what needs to be done, who is responsible for doing it, and how it will be accomplished. This clarity can reduce misunderstandings and miscommunication among team members, leading to a more cohesive and efficient team.
The four functions of management can also help product managers to boost engagement levels among team members. By involving the team in the planning and organizing process, they feel more invested in the product and are more likely to stay motivated throughout the project’s duration.
The four functions of management enable product managers to make swift progress and facilitate prompt decision-making. By breaking the project down into manageable tasks and establishing a clear timeline, product managers can ensure that the team stays on track and can quickly pivot if necessary.
By utilizing the four functions of management, product managers can deliver meaningful outcomes that meet or exceed the stakeholders’ expectations. By combining traditional management principles with modern technology, product managers can enhance their ability to manage complex projects and deliver successful products or services.
If you’re not careful, the four management functions can be distorted into something unhelpful. When they’re misapplied, the results can be terrifying.
Management isn’t about limiting teams; it’s about setting the direction and providing the conditions to get there.
Some of the antipatterns I’ve seen product managers carry out include:
These antipatterns usually lead to poor results and disengaged team members. So, be aware of these traps and make sure you implement the four functions correctly.
Some challenges you may face when applying the four functions of management include:
Here are six practical steps to implement the four functions of management in product management:
Applying the four functions of management – planning, organizing, leading, and controlling – to product management can help teams navigate complex projects, deliver meaningful results, and improve overall performance.
However, it’s essential to avoid common pitfalls, such as micromanaging and excluding team members from decision-making processes.
By fostering a culture of collaboration, innovation, and continuous improvement, product managers can lead their teams to success and create products that delight customers.
Featured image source: IconScout
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