The right mindset separates good Product Managers from the best Product Managers. If you can exhibit a well-developed Product Manager mindset during the PM interview process, you’ll instantly set yourself apart from the competition.
There is a lot to unpack about this specific way of product thinking. But, you are more than capable of learning and developing a product management mindset. Let’s start by unpacking what the best PM mindset is.
What Is a Product Manager Mindset?
In short, a product management mindset is a customer-focused mindset. You are focusing on developing a product to solve the customer’s problem. It is a more long-term way of thinking. Instead of being caught up in project deadlines, you are focusing on the ultimate goal of helping the customer.
So what sets the product mindset apart? The key difference between the product mindset definition and that of other industry mindsets — like a Project Manager or IT mindset — is what they focus on. Often, IT Managers are more tapped into the technology available to them rather than the customer’s wants and needs. They are creating a product through the lens of expanding the capability of technology.
On the other hand, A Product Manager mindset focuses on helping the customer. As a Product Manager, you are continually tracking your product success and evolving your product as the needs of the customer evolve.
Think of it this way: the end goal with a product management mindset is customer satisfaction. This is variable, as that satisfaction can change. In contrast, the end goal with a project management mindset is fixed: project completion.
Characteristics of a Product Mindset
Just as every company defines product management in their own way, they also refer to a product mindset in their own way. A job description may highlight a product mindset, product thinking, customer-focused outlook, or outcome-driven mindset. However, there are a few characteristics they are always looking for in a Product Manager mindset.
Other technical teams may get more caught up in the timelines and checkpoints laid out in the original project plan. As the Product Manager, it is your job to keep the priorities straight and adjust the timeline as needed to make sure the top priority is always taken care of. Prioritizing the needs of the customer over the timeline of the project is important as a Product Manager at any company.
As a Product Manager, it is important to be adaptable. There are a number of unknown variables when it comes to developing a customer-centric product. Being adaptable involves responding to the needs of the market as they change: listening to your customer feedback and solving problems, which will shift with time and with your product. Prepare yourself for changing ideas and changing metrics that will influence product development.
The Product Manager’s job doesn’t end with the product launch. The work continues as you track the customer’s experience and continually develop the product to reflect their wants and needs. Understanding the need to make data-driven decisions throughout the entire lifecycle of a product is where the needs of your customer meet the needs of the business.
Perhaps the most important characteristic of having a Product Manager mindset is being customer-focused in every decision you make. Having customer empathy simply means understanding your customer: what do they want, need, and like? What problems are they encountering? How can you bring them more value? No matter where you go, being a customer-obsessed Product Manager is a strength if not an expectation. It is your job to understand the customer and develop the product they need the most.
Product Manager Mindset Examples
All of the best Product Managers share the same key characteristics. Ken Sandy categorized these characteristics into four mindsets: Explorer, Analyst, Challenger, and Evangelist. Ken believes the most influential Product Managers are able to flow between all four mindsets, knowing which mindset will be most beneficial at which times.
Divergent thinking and imagining make up the Explorer mindset. This is the Product Manager mindset to utilize when you are getting creative in your search for new opportunities and product solutions. The process of brainstorming and fully exploring ideas is best executed with an Explorer mindset.
Stick with divergent thinking but incorporate more inspection than imagination and you will move into the Analyst mindset. This is where you focus on the data and assess the product performance. In the Analyst mindset, you want to understand your customer and any needs your product has not met.
This is where you switch from divergent thinking to convergent thinking, meaning you are focusing on one idea rather than exploring multiple ideas at once. The Challenger focuses their thoughts and ideas on the data in front of them. Their goal is to find any potential cracks in the current plans.
When you combine imagination and convergent thinking, you get the Evangelist. In this Product Manager mindset, you know what to focus on and you can see how it will help your customer, so it is time to rally the team and get them excited for the product you are creating.
Mind The Product supports this idea that the best Product Managers are able to work in multiple mindsets at once and switch their thought processes quickly and repeatedly throughout the day. For example, if you are managing more than one product development at once, you will need to switch mindsets throughout the day depending on which product is needing the most attention. Identifying which Product Manager mindset is needed and applying it to the situation quickly is a respected quality of a great Product Manager.
How Do I Develop a Product Manager Mindset?
A Product Manager mindset is not exclusive to seasoned Product Managers. You can recreate your way of attacking a project and develop a Product Manager mindset. Work on strengthening the key characteristics of a Product Manager mindset as they apply to your daily life: Prioritization, adaptability, data-driven decision making, and customer-focused outlook.
There are plenty of resources available to help you become a great Product Manager, such as instructional videos, informative blogs, and webinar training. Product Gym is here to help you on your road to becoming a Product Manager. If you are looking for a bit more guidance on changing your mindset, schedule a free coaching call with us. We will help you prepare your mind for product management life.