This week on Product Love, I sat down with Marc Abraham, head of product at ASOS.com, a fashion retailer for trendy 20-somethings. Incidentally, two things I am not. Marc initially joined as the company as a product ownership practice lead, where he helped establish a common foundation for 30+ product owners who needed to figure out how to engage with and create value for customers.
In his free time, Marc is involved with Mind the Product, especially the product camps — local meetups all over the globe organized by and for product managers. In addition, he’s the author of a book, My Product Management Toolkit, which you can check out here.
On this week’s podcast, we talk about the four C’s of product management, evangelizing the product mindset, and managing frustrations as a product manager.
Being a product manager is a great job — it’s fulfilling in a way that it’s both exciting and challenging. The role becomes increasingly important and essential to a company’s success as companies transition to digital. However, the reality of the job is that PMs have to manage a lot of frustrations. The position sits at the crux of nearly every department, and that means having a great deal of responsibility. Product managers have to collaborate with people who don’t work on the same wavelength or vision as they do, and they often lack the authority to even bring those people onto the same page.
Marc has dealt with his fair share of on-the-job frustrations. His advice is to manage yourself first. If he had a particularly hard meeting with a stakeholder, then he would step back, count to ten, and try to understand where they were coming from.
Another key challenge of the PM role is learning how to cut through the noise, communicate effectively, and stay empathetic. It’s expected that product managers have to deal with a lot of “clutter” and make trade-offs. It’s easy to get burnt out and bogged down from not being heard, but this is where having a product mindset can be powerful.
The 4 C’s of the product mindset
Marc has a great framework called The Product Mindset, composed of four C’s:
A product person, whether that’s a designer or manager, should always be close to the customer. Marc emphasizes the importance of talking to customers often and having a pulse on what they’re trying to solve. Product people need to know what customers are working on, where the competition is, and what the market wants from them.
Every product manager should want to dig into a problem and understand the underlying assumptions there. A good way to vet for curiosity is to listen to what kinds of questions product managers are asking.
This is the ability to come up with unusual solutions for existing problems. This person doesn’t need to have the technical skills of a designer, but the interest and ability to engage with a creative process is absolutely essential.
Clarity is actually comprised of two sub-C’s: communication and collaboration. Product managers have to communicate with different groups of people who have their own languages: stakeholders, customers, and teammates. It’s important to be able to provide clarity up and down, while also collaborating across disciplines.
Want to learn what it’s like being a product manager at ASOS, or how to improve your remote product management skills? Listen to the episode above.