Product managers have had quite the rollercoaster experience post-pandemic.
The highs have been hard-earned, and the lows have been constant twists and turns, with new surprises always coming. The past several years of market volatility have made manufacturing and product roadmapping even more difficult.
With all this change, product managers can turn to principles of agile thinking to stay ahead of market volatility and keep the team moving as one.
Agile thinking refers to the ability to quickly respond to changing circumstances, adapt to new challenges, and continuously improve processes and outcomes. Drawing inspiration from the agile methodology originally developed for software development, agile thinking transcends its origins to permeate various facets of business operations, with real advantages when applied to product management practices.
At the end of the day, staying agile is key to maintaining your organization’s competitive advantage in the market. Here are three ways agile thinking can improve product management.
Squash risks before they happen
In times of market volatility, risk management practices become even more critical to keeping production running without disruption. By applying agile thinking principles, product managers can proactively identify, assess, and mitigate risks throughout the product development lifecycle.
For example, agile thinking promotes an iterative, incremental approach to product development with continuous feedback loops throughout the process. By staying agile, product managers have shorter sprints of development with more opportunities to identify and address potential risks. By incorporating these checks early and often, product managers reduce the likelihood of major setbacks down the line.
Agile thinking also encourages teams to prioritize tasks in order of importance, dedicating time and resources to the most important tasks first. It’s a critical thinking skill. The ability to adapt and reprioritize in response to changing circumstances allows product managers to address emerging risks promptly, ensuring that the organization remains on track even in the face of uncertainty.
This approach not only helps create transparency across the organization but also enables teams to navigate risks more effectively. In the end, more successful outcomes and increased overall project success rates win the day for product managers. Agile thinking can help them get there.
Communicate clearly and collaboratively
Good communication is the most critical element of any functional relationship, be it a marriage, a friendship, or a team dynamic in a business. Product managers—leaders of interconnected teams and complex group relationships—are charged with keeping product roadmaps on track. Communication is one of the most important tools at their disposal, especially within a large, growing or global team.
Agile thinking offers valuable strategies for product managers because agile methodologies are based on collaborative principles that foster better communication.
To incorporate agile communication, consider cross-functional collaboration strategies. For example, product managers could consult leaders from another, differently skilled team to find a new way to solve a problem. Product managers could also choose to hire a new candidate whose background is in a different industry or practice area, instead of hiring a candidate with the same background as the rest of the team, to diversify and uplevel the entire team’s skills and expertise.
Agile methodologies also value meetings as opportunities to gather feedback and reflect. Daily stand-up meetings offer regular touchpoints and reinforce continuous feedback loops, while retrospectives offer team members the chance to reflect on what’s working and what could improve. Also consider visualization tools or methods, whether to solve specific problems or to view product roadmaps in a new way that gives the entire team a common reference point.
By breaking down silos and encouraging collaboration, agile thinking enables product managers to improve communication across functional boundaries, leading to better alignment and coordination.
Foster growth over time
As organizations look to scale their operations, principles in agile thinking can help growth happen sustainably over time.
Agile thinking emphasizes the importance of aligning product initiatives with the organization's mission and vision. Product managers continually revisit their mission and vision statements, ensuring that the team has a clear understanding of the organization's overarching goals. This constant alignment serves as the "north star" for decision-making and prioritization, guiding product managers in their all-important strategic choices.
Prioritization and iterative processes that are valued in agile methods break down the development process into smaller, focused steps that, when executed correctly, foster growth over time. With incremental development in shorter sprints, product managers can prioritize developing product features and functionality based on customer feedback, market trends and business goals.
This mindset enables product managers to adapt their strategies, refine their product roadmap, and seize growth opportunities as they emerge, ensuring that the product remains aligned with market demands and customer expectations.
The greatest constant in business—and in product management—is change. Product managers are best positioned to adapt to change when they’re aligned with a company’s mission, communicating clearly, and ready to tackle potential risks even before they happen.
Agile methodologies build these skills and cultivate a culture of adaptation that empowers product managers to drive growth, deliver value to customers and support product development teams of international size and scale. Product managers: whether your entire team adds agile thinking to its skillset, or you pull one or two strategies from the agile playbook, consider the benefits of agility and try out new ways to unlock growth for your team.
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