Blending Product and Business Change Management.

The best product managers require a certain set of capabilities that navigate a variety of issues to create value.
The attributes of an exceptional product manager are many and varied but with that now comes the added complexity and special emphasis on the integral role of change management.
So what skills should you be looking for when hiring a Product Manager to smash your product creation process and not only deploy something of value to your organisation but also integrate that delivery with a portfolio of services that may already be in existence.

Well successful product managers often possess a strong academic background, with a minimum of a 2:1 degree in a relevant field such as business, computer science, or engineering. A degree in change management or a related discipline can be a great asset, providing foundational knowledge on managing business transformations effectively but this shouldn’t be your de-facto baseline to hire against.

Understanding what works and what doesn’t is often built from experience and so depth of experience in a multitude of different sectors will be so much more useful than just having someone with a solid degree.

I personally have worked with many individuals over my career who have obtained good degrees from excellent universities but I am not sure I would let them walk my dog let alone own the product budget for something I desperately wanted to be of value for my company or organisation.

So probably the number 1 item on your list of things to be looking for would be Project and Change Management Experience.

Market sector experience is even more important and often refers to the familiarity and understanding a person or a company has within a particular segment of the economy or industry. This experience is often gained over time and includes knowledge about the competitive landscape, consumer behaviour, trends, regulations, challenges, and opportunities within that specific sector.

For example, if a professional has worked for several years in the tech industry, they would have tech sector experience. They would understand the dynamics of the tech market, including the needs and preferences of tech consumers, the main competitors in the space, the regulatory environment, and the latest trends and innovations.

Similarly, a company operating in the retail sector would gain market sector experience over time, understanding the intricacies of retail operations, supply chain management, consumer behaviour, seasonal trends, and more.

This kind of sector-specific experience can be highly valuable because it enables professionals and companies to make informed decisions, identify opportunities, anticipate challenges, and ultimately be more competitive and successful within their market sector.

Experience in managing projects, particularly those involving significant change, is vital. Product managers should be adept at defining the scope of a project, creating comprehensive plans, and executing them on time and within budget. Experience in managing corporate website, extranet, and intranet builds or any projects involving substantial business change is particularly advantageous.

Technical Proficiency

Technical skills remain critical in product management. This includes familiarity with content management systems, bug tracking tools like JIRA, and QA techniques and processes. Knowledge of change management tools and methodologies can also be a significant advantage in implementing successful change initiatives.

Commercial Acumen

Along with sound financial management skills, product managers need to understand the commercial implications of change. They should be able to assess the financial impact of proposed changes, manage financial risks, and ensure changes deliver value for the business.

Strong Communication and Interpersonal Skills

Effective change management relies heavily on clear communication. Product managers must articulate the reasons for change, the benefits, and the steps involved. They should be skilled at building relationships and managing resistance to change, creating a supportive environment that fosters positive transformation.

Research and Development Skills

In addition to understanding market trends and clients’ businesses, product managers should stay abreast of best practices in change management. This enables them to design and implement change initiatives that align with proven methodologies and deliver desired outcomes.

Team Management Abilities

Managing change often involves leading teams through uncertainty. Product managers should be capable of guiding their teams through change, providing support, reassurance, and direction. Their leadership can have a profound impact on how smoothly the organisation navigates transitions.

A Passion for Digital

Product managers should not only be passionate about digital technology but also enthusiastic about leveraging it to facilitate change. This could involve using digital tools to improve processes, enhance customer experiences, or create new business models.

Exceptional Attention to Detail

Successful change management requires meticulous planning and execution. Product managers should have an extraordinary attention to detail, ensuring every aspect of the change process is carefully managed.

A High-Quality Service Ethic

Product managers should be committed to delivering excellent service, even in times of change. This involves maintaining high standards of customer service and ensuring changes are implemented with minimal disruption to customers.

Ambition to Self-Improve

A commitment to continuous learning is particularly important in change management, a field that continues to evolve rapidly. Product managers should be eager to expand their knowledge and skills, including those related to change management.

Ability to Manage Conflicting Priorities

Change often brings conflicting priorities. Product managers need to be adept at balancing these, making tough decisions to ensure the successful implementation of change.

A Strong ‘Can Do’ Attitude

Finally, a ‘can do’ attitude is crucial. Change can be challenging, and product managers need to be proactive, resilient, and ready to take on these challenges. They should be able to work independently and as part of a team, demonstrating leadership and initiative throughout the change process.

In the ever-evolving world of product management, change is a given. The best product managers are not only adept at handling this change, but they also excel at leveraging it to create strategic value. They are change agents who can guide teams and organisations through transitions, ensuring that changes are smoothly implemented and deliver the desired business benefits.

The perfect product manager, therefore, is a unique blend of various skills and qualities. They are technically proficient, commercially savvy, and adept at managing both projects and people. They have a passion for digital technology and an extraordinary attention to detail. They are committed to continuous learning, able to manage conflicting priorities, and possess a strong ‘can do’ attitude.

But perhaps most importantly, they have a deep understanding of change management principles and practices. They recognise that change is not just about implementing new technologies or processes, but about people. They understand the human side of change and are skilled at leading and supporting their teams through the change process.

In essence, a great product manager is much more than just a manager. They are a strategist, a communicator, a problem-solver, a leader, and a change agent. They are the driving force behind product development and organisational change, and their skills and expertise can play a crucial role in the success of your organisation.

So, when hiring for this critical role, remember to look beyond the CV. Consider the whole package – the skills, experience, qualities, and potential for growth. Look for someone who not only meets the technical and commercial requirements of the role but also has a deep understanding of change management and a proven track record in managing change successfully.

Remember, hiring the perfect product manager is an investment in your product’s future. It’s about finding someone who can guide your product and your organisation through the inevitable changes and challenges that lie ahead. So, take your time, do your homework, and don’t settle for anything less than exceptional. After all, your product – and your organisation – deserves nothing less.

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