Ah, the lull at the end of the year — that time between Christmas and New Year when things settle for the year (or half, depending on your FY) and the calendar rolls over into a new year, full of new possibilities and new opportunities. For Product Managers, this is the time when you settle your record for the past year and begin planning and preparing for the year to come — first quarters full of promise, second quarters full of marketing events, third quarters of adjustments, and fourth quarters of all-out execution. At least that’s my usual pattern – maybe yours is somewhat different. As the new year dawns, here are some suggestions on hitting the ground running in 2016, some exercises to get you back in the head space after a brief respite of the holidays…
Start With a Vision
Just like we do with our products, we should start every year with a vision — an idea of the ultimate state of being for your company and your product at the end of 2016. What does that future look like, and how is it different from the present? If you could do anything at all over the next 12 months, how would that projected future look and feel — who would be new customers, what old customers would you lose along the way, what groundbreaking features would be present, and what competitors are drooling at your heels (or now a part of your own organization)? A vision gives us the animus necessary to make wild decisions, to take risks, and ultimately to achieve. Decisions without vision are workmanlike, incremental improvements to existing capabilities and plans — they’re not the innovative, potentially world-changing decisions that we need to make in order to ensure that we’re at the top of our game, and that our companies and our products are the best of the best.
Now, will you execute all of this vision? Probably not — but unless you take some time to create that vision, you’ll be stuck in the same mental space that you have been throughout 2015.
Plan for Self-Improvement
As Product Managers, we often find ourselves so stuck in the day-to-day grind of execution and discovery that we fail to take some time to improve ourselves — we’re constantly pushing those around us to improve and innovate in what they’re doing, but we often miss out on opportunities to do the same for ourselves. This is where a little planning and foresight can make a huge difference — especially in a holiday lull! Take some time before the shit hits the fan in 2016 to figure out when, where, and how you can make yourself a little bit better as a Product Manager — is it volunteering to help out with local Meetups or some PM classes/training (like I did this year with General Assembly?)