As software product managers, we often deal with cross-functional issues from time to time such as projects that fall behind schedule and now risk making a release, creative designs not ready for implementation, serious production issues that require immediate swats to be released etc. When such problems crop up, keeping your cross-functional team including your management team updated with the latest information is of paramount important. You can take two approaches to communication when such “fires” arise:
- Try to gather as much information as possible before you communicate so that you can include all the details of the problem and how you are going to fix it or
- Communicate immediately acknowledging there is a problem without revealing the seriousness of the problem and details of how you are going to fix it.
When substantial time is needed to gather data to understand the impact and quantify the size of the problem, I always prefer the latter. In an emergency, it is important to acknowledge that you are aware of the problem and to communicate the message “we are on top of it”. This way everyone (especially your senior management) know about the problem and can rest assured that folks are actively looking into it. Then, once you have gathered more information follow up with the details, options to fix the problem and the recommended solution. Instead, if you wait until you have all the information and good amount of time goes by, someone is going to find out, things get miscommunicated and you could spend more time trying to set things right.
Relate this to when tragedies strike – there is always a “first responder” team that appears on the scene immediately. Their job is to arrive first at the scene and take charge of the scene and start the data gathering process. As a product manager, you should be your team’s leader and part of the first responder team. On-time communication with the whole team is one way to gain respect and make you the go-to-person on your team.
Thoughts? Your experiences?
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Move this into our world… we have all heard the metrics that the buyer has essentially made his purchase decision prior to engaging in the sales cycle, so we need to put content goodies out there to be found. Without content, we can’t win business, develop trust or even build our brand.
But, without sales, we also can’t afford to build content. What do you do? How do you break the cycle? Which came first, the chicken or the egg?
In many smaller organizations, the subject matter expert (SME) is wearing many hats and is being pulled in multiple directions – development, investors, sales, maybe even CEO… and downloading content from his brain to your inbox is simply not a priority.
Content matters. Sales matters. There is no right or wrong here. There is no either/or. They both matter. If we take it upon ourselves to understand the market and the buyer, we can then, very succinctly, ask the SME questions to draw out enough information for us to employ our mad research skills and figure out the best format to showcase his response (whether it be an infographic, a white paper, a blog post, etc.) It is likely that he can pull out some older content that you were not even aware of, and can be polished up or refreshed. What already exists in your organization? Search for old blog posts, support FAQ’s, tips and tricks in the product manual. Think about what a frustrated buyer might type into Google or Quora seeking help and create content that helps solve that issue.
By knowing your buyer, you can also create new content. Solve a buyer’s problem. Understand their concerns. Make that your message. If you know your message, and can clearly articulate that message, creating content becomes easier. Once you put the content out into the market place, the buyer will seek you out to solve his problem. Sales follow and the cycle is broken. Looking in from the outside, it seems to always start with your buyer.