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4 Ways to Develop Your Strategic Thinking Skills in Product Management

By Puja Lakhlani – Head of Product Management @ UST Product Engineering

Strategic thinking is a process that defines the way people think about, assess, view and create the future for themselves and others. It’s about developing a mindset and a thought process that focuses on analysis of critical factors and variables that will influence the long term success of a business, a team, a product, an individual.

Strategic thinking skills are among the most highly sought after product management competencies. This is because product managers capable of thinking critically, logically and strategically can have a huge impact on the businesses’ success. It is a skill that separates the role of a product manager from the role of a product owner. As a product manager you are creating the vision and driving product growth whereas with product ownership, your focus is more on much needed on the functional, operational, and executional based responsibilities within your team. Therefore great strategic thinkers are very well rounded and have the ability to balance outcomes, overcome obstacles, communicate effectively, test against your biases. 

If you want to improve your strategic thinking skills, the good news is that with the right mindset and practice, you absolutely can.

Key Takeaways:

  • Asking more questions as a product manager is a good way to develop strategic thinking skills.
  • The second way to build strategic thinking skills is to observe and reflect and gather information about the product problem before coming up with the solutions.
  • It is good to question your assumptions and put your hypothesis through rigorous testing.
  • Product managers should try to take up formal training as well to brush up their skills.
In this article
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    1. Ask questions

    If you want to improve your strategic thinking skills as a product manager, one of the simplest ways you can do so is by asking more questions. Doing so allows you to exercise your planning skills, become adept at spotting opportunities, and develop a strategic mindset you can leverage throughout your career. 

    You can ask questions like- How can you strategically position yourself to enter a market, or what’s a direction for growth for each of your products or product lines or segments.

    2. Observe and reflect

    The second thing you can do is really observe and reflect. It’s not just about asking questions, but it’s also about being able to answer them in a very skillful manner. One of the most effective ways of accomplishing this is to observe and reflect on your current situation, essentially a retrospect, ensuring that the strategy that you’re conceiving is actually grounded in facts. 

    For instance, if a company is losing clients in a particular segment while gaining market share in another, a knee-jerk assumption might lead to misguided strategies. So instead of blindly following an assumption, it is better to gather as much information as possible by conducting user interviews, understanding customer acquisition models, and validating user needs.  This can enable you to really tailor your marketing strategy and your product development to better serve the market needs.

    3. Consider opposing ideas

    As a product manager, don’t be afraid to consider opposing ideas as well. Once you’ve landed on your strategy, done your due diligence, and finalized a strategy that can help your company reach its goals, it’s good to question your assumptions and put your hypothesis through rigorous testing. This helps you to ensure that you are not just overlooking other possibilities. It’s about playing devil’s advocate with your ideas and that can really help you identify blind spots or weaknesses and equip you to defend your strategy when others ask questions. This method can also help you sharpen your logic skills when you need to communicate with others and allow you to uncover your own biases. This helps you to think from different perspectives and develop this skill and get in the habit of questioning yourself anytime you are about to make an assertion.

    4. Formal training

    The last thing is to get some formal training as well. In today’s age, everyone should embrace continuous learning. There are so many different learning options within product management that you can pursue. Thanks to organizations like The Institute of Product Leadership, if you need to quickly ramp up your strategy skills which are very important in product management roles, you can enroll in their learning program or strengthen your product mindset with so many free resources out there that are available.

    Developing strategic thinking skills is paramount for product managers seeking to upskill and thrive in their careers and make a long-lasting impact on their businesses. Skills like asking the right questions, observing and reflecting, considering opposing ideas and taking a formal training are keys to developing your strategic skills in the product management domain.

    Frequently Asked Questions

    Strategic thinking is a process that defines the way people think about, assess, view and create the future for themselves and others. It’s about developing a mindset and a thought process that focuses on analysis of critical factors and variables that will influence the long term success of a business, a team, a product, an individual.

    There are 4 main ways to develop strategic thinking skills in product management. These are to ask questions, observe and reflect, consider opposing viewpoints and get formal training.

    Considering opposing ideas can really help you identify blind spots or weaknesses and equip product managers to defend their strategy when others ask questions. This method can also help them to sharpen their logic skills when they need to communicate with others and allow them to uncover their own biases.

    About the Author:

    Puja Lakhlani – Head of Product Management @ UST Product Engineering

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