Aspiring product managers often wonder how to demonstrate their product vision effectively during the job hunt and once they land their first Product Management role. In a recent interview with Product Gym; a career coaching program for aspiring and junior Product Managers, I had the opportunity to dig into the significance of a product vision. This includes defining what it is and the role it plays in a product manager’s day to day, how an aspiring Product Manager might demonstrate their skill set in crafting visions in an interview process, and key things newer Product Managers can do to create and demonstrate their product vision once they land a job.
With that, let’s ground ourselves on what a Product Vision even is.
Defining Product Vision:
The Product Vision forms the backbone of a successful Product Manager's entire world. While visions can differ greatly depending on the product, industry, or Product Manager, generally they should be comprised of four key components:
Strategic objectives and how they ladder up to the company’s goals
A definition of the purpose of the product
Defining who the target is for this product
Reviewing the problems this product is aiming to solve
The product vision has a specific home in the hierarchy of artifacts that aim to ensure everyone is “swimming” in the same direction across an organization. Keeping this in mind will help constrain the scope of the vision to guarantee effectiveness.
Distinguishing Product Vision from Company Mission:
While both the product vision statement and the company's mission statement are essential, they serve different purposes.
The product vision focuses on the product's direction, user-oriented objectives, and measurable outcomes. On the other hand, a company mission statement typically encompasses broader organizational goals and values.
Author and Ownership:
The product vision is typically crafted collaboratively between Product Managers and other stakeholders, whereas the company mission is often the responsibility of executives and leadership.
Demonstrating Product Vision Before you Land the Job:
Demonstrating your aptitude at crafting a strong product vision is both one of the most important things you need to do as an aspiring Product Manager, as well as one of the most challenging things to do in an interview. Here are four ideas of things to focus on to help demonstrating this skillset:
On the Resume:
An ability to craft a vision needs to come to life on your resume. Highlighting relevant past work experience and how it impacted the team or organization will be critical. Don’t just limit yourself to the 9-5; if you have a side hustle, projects, school activities, don’t hesitate to include them.
Thought Process Demonstration:
During interviews, articulate your thought process behind decision-making and problem-solving. Use the 1-2-3 or STAR story format to structure your responses emphasizing the challenges faced, actions taken, and results achieved.
Use Real World Examples and Provide your Voiceover:
Many people complain that they don’t have any actual examples of times where they have created visions because they haven’t yet had the opportunity. If that sentiment applies to you, don’t be afraid to use real world examples. Have a favorite company that you think has done a great job of bringing their vision to life? Walk the interviewer through it. See an example of where a product or feature totally missed the mark? Don’t be afraid to dig into that as an example and demonstrate how you would approach it differently.
Ask Thoughtful Questions:
Demonstrate your curiosity and understanding of the product by asking well-researched questions to the interviewer. This shows your genuine interest in the role and the product you could be working on.
Leading with Product Vision on the Job:
Once you land the job, focus on these key things to ensure you are building a great product vision:
1. Customer Focus:
Keep the user at the heart of every decision and prioritize their needs and pain points in the product development process.
2. Collaboration with Stakeholders:
Engage with cross-functional teams, including design, engineering, and marketing, to align everyone with the product vision and create a shared sense of purpose.
3. Clear and Frequent Communication:
Articulate the product vision consistently and ensure it is understood by all team members and stakeholders. Regularly share updates on progress and milestones. Your vision should be concise enough to convey to a curious executive during an elevator ride.
4. Measure Impact:
Use relevant metrics to gauge the product's success and align it with the overall business goals. Data-driven decisions strengthen the product vision and strategy.
5. Adapt and Iterate:
Embrace a flexible approach to product development and be open to feedback and change. Iteratively improve the product to match evolving market needs.
Motivate and Inspire: As a Product Manager, your vision should inspire the team to work together towards a common goal. Celebrate successes and encourage a positive work culture.
The Checklist for A Great Product Vision:
Once you’ve created your product vision, here are six questions to ask yourself to ensure your vision is hitting the mark.
Customer focus: Is your product vision centered on the customer? Is the customer you’ve decided to focus on the right customer?
Time horizon: Too far out and your vision is not helpful, too short term and your vision isn’t inspirational. What is the time horizon your vision captures? Is that appropriate for this product, the company, and the team?
Alignment to business goals: Does this vision support the achievement of critical business priorities and goals?
Level of inspiration: How inspiring is this vision? Will it be able to rally the team?
Ability to measure: Can you measure how successful or close you are to achieving this vision? What are the KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) you will target to understand if you are getting closer?
Concise and easy to articulate: If you had an elevator ride with an executive, is this vision something that could be clearly conveyed AND is it something that executive will remember?
Demonstrating product vision is a crucial aspect of succeeding as a product manager. The 3 Ms - Motivation, Metric Focus, and Mentorship - play a significant role in driving a strong vision. Remember that your product vision should be customer-centric, aligned with business objectives, and constantly evolving based on feedback and data. Visions are ever changing and a living breathing part of being an effective Product Manager.
What did I miss in crafting a great product vision? Let me know in the comments.
About the Author
Ben Staples has over 8 years of Product Management and Product Marketing eCommerce experience. He is currently employed at Nordstrom as a Manager of Product Management managing a team of Product Managers focused on Nordstrom’s eCommerce experience across the web and app. Previously, Ben was a Senior Product Manager for Trunk Club responsible for their iOS and Android apps. Ben started his Product career as a Product Manager for Vistaprint where he was responsible for their cart and checkout experiences. Learn more at www.Ben-Staples.com
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