Product Management Communication

The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place. – George Bernard Shaw

A huge part of my role as an Entrepreneur & Product Manager is communication. Communicating the vision, communicating product design and communicating day-to-day execution. Overtime you learn effective ways to handle these three type of communication and see what works. Here are the three types of product management communication and the best practices to handle each one:

Communicating the vision 

For each feature decision it’s important that it meets the company’s vision for the product. When communicating with other team members, the vision needs to be succint and clear. I find it effective to include the vision when writing specs or product requirement documents. Another effective exercise is creating a Product Vision Board with the rest of the team to make sure everyone is aligned. Here’s a template I use.

Communicating product design

Eric Ries has a great model  for communicating design decisions where he recommends switching your spec writing process from push to pull. You should be creating a very minimal spec document (ideally one page) and present it to the engineering team and see what questions they ask. Then based on the discussion, quickly iterate collaboratively. Additionally, when designing mockups, Product Managers should  include real user data (as opposed to lorem ipsum), this allows you to interact with your mock ups and do some validation before writing code.

Communicating day-to-day execution

Tool like Asana, Trello, Jira and Slack are pretty effective to manage projects, users stories and instant communication. But how do you handle communication where the stakes are really high? How do you communicate about a feature prioritization decision that the rest of the team doesn’t agree on? For me, the book Crucial Conversations has provided some great frameworks for handling these types of conversations. The main idea is to create a collective understanding about your decision making process, in the case of product decisions, to always back your decisions with real data. A lot of times this requires getting stakeholders with higher authority to get involved early in the process or sending constant updates if they are unable to join you in the decision making process. I usually provide weekly or monthly status emails to provide progress and communicate how the progress fits well with the roadmap.

Hopefully these tips will help you with your product management communciation. I’m constantly looking for ways to improve my communication by learning from other product managers. That’s why I’ve started a meetup group for other other product to meet on monthly basis to discuss their strategies on design and product development. You can learn about the group on our meetup page.

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Zain Abiddin is an Entrepreneur & Product Manager. He is the founder and Product Manager of Chillik Media, a design led software agency based in San Francisco.

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