Product Success Has a Softer Side - Deepstash

Product Success Has a Softer Side

If you want to help your product managers succeed, you must address the softer side of product management. There are so many soft skills that a product manager needs to master in order to be able to deliver the outcomes you really want from them.

When you set goals, make sure at least one of them sets the bar for higher performance in a softer area: working with stakeholders, decision making, clear communication, or anything else you can think of.



Measuring the performance of product managers is a real challenge for a number of reasons. When planning the product managers’ goals, this challenge can translate into taking the wrong direction altogether. Here is a new way to look at product management goals, and make them a useful tool for both you and your team.



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Measuring Product Managers Performance

Unlike sales and marketing, who are responsible for very clear, measurable, deliverables (new/retained customers and leads respectively), product managers can’t be measured this way.

The outcome of good product management work is not contained in the product department but rather manifested in the performance of many other departments.



But in most cases, these numbers are not set in stone. You want to set goals that are challenging yet achievable, and by definition, it creates a range of options. The OKR method sets the objective (what we are actually trying to achieve here) as context for the actual results and numbers that we strive to see.

The rule of thumb is that when assessing whether or not an OKR was met, if you were able to meet 70% of the goal you should consider it done. That’s because it was meant to be directional all along.




Before you set goals for your product managers, you need to understand why you are doing it. There are a number of reasons to set goals for people in your company, but not all of them can be applied to product managers, like:

  • Personal performance evaluation
  • Making sure the company’s operational pace is maintained
  • Giving guidance and direction

You can set goals that are related to company or business objectives. As a general guideline, you should treat the goals you set for your product managers as means to give them guidance and direction, not measure their performance or even the product’s.



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Prioritisation is a challenging problem

When building a product, brainstorming ideas, finding ways for improvement, and collecting feedback can result in many good ideas.

However, it can be challenging to prioritise the order in which you tackle those ideas for several reasons:

  • It's more satisfying to work on pet ideas you'd use yourself instead of projects with a broad reach.
  • It's tempting to focus on clever ideas instead of those that impact your goals.
  • New ideas are more exciting than ideas you're confident about.




  • Write down 3 existing company goals impacted by the decision;
  • Write down at least 3 realistic alternatives;
  • Write down the most important information you are missing;
  • Write down the impact your decision will have 1 year in the future;
  • Involve a team of 2-6 stakeholders;
  • Write down what was decided, as well as why and how much the team supports the decision;
  • Schedule a decision follow-up in one to two months.




  • Business and product strategy. As a principal engineer, it’s important to understand the overall strategy for your group and what you can do to support the goals it’s trying to achieve.
  • Team needs. Although you’re not part of a specific team, you’ll find yourself working with many teams across the business to achieve your goals. To prioritize effectively, identify the needs of the teams you work with most closely. 
  • Engineering org needs. Are there problems within the org that you could help with? Look out for initiatives that particularly interest you or that could help you develop some of your growth areas.
  • Personal goals. Consider your personal goals. Identify your strengths, goals you haven’t yet achieved, and areas you might need to improve, and incorporate feedback you’ve received from your manager and peers.