Professors Pinkesh Shah and Rahul Abhyankar wrote back to Ajay George (EMBA class of 2015-A), who recently became a Product Manager at Satmetrix with their tips on how to make the best of the first 90 days at the new role. An invaluable read for everyone, product manager or not.
Great to know that it has started well. The first 90 days at work are critical for success. Here are some tips to make the best out of this. On an average you only do this every 5 years so most people do this only about 5 times in their entire life!
1. v2.0 of YOU
Your prior work colleagues and management team know you from the time you joined them. You may have changed drastically but their perception of you are still in v1.0 in their minds. They have already made many assumptions - some real, some not so good and some that they will never change!
A new role is more than just a role - it's an opportunity to put on display the new version 2.0 of YOU. Execute like you are +1 (in terms of promotion from where you are) and create the first 90 day impression the way you want others to see you!
2. Project to Product Mindset
Before you get busy taking on tasks, projects, deadlines etc. stop and ask the "why?" What is the customer value? What is the definition of success? Even in the most conservative environments - you can ask some bold questions and get away with it because you are a "newbie" - you can’t do that effectively after 90 days 🙂 You would be surprised how stale or bad assumptions drive even the most senior management teams in product companies - so go challenge a few!
3. Map out the stakeholders
Respect everyone, listen to only a few! Everyone wants the new guy to help/work on their favourite team/project (especially when they know you are a fresh business school educated guy!) Define your role and your personal success criteria. What would you have to do in the next 60 days to get an "excellent" from yourself? Have this conversation with multiple management team members (if you have access to them) and summarize it an email (it will serve you well if you document it!) Develop an action plan to deliver on success and not on the workload.
4. Know your boss' success criteria
Very soon you will have, if you haven't already, the conversation about your goals, objectives for the quarter, etc. and how your performance will be measured. Don't stop there. Know what is important for your boss. Sometimes, at a new/beginner level, your goals may be too specific to the few things you are responsible for. However, your boss' goals are likely to be better aligned with the BU or the company’s objectives. Basically make your boss successful in his or her goals.
5. Behave as if you have the next role already
You've started as a product manager and you will likely be in the same role for the next couple of years. But as you learn more about the company, start thinking and behaving as if you have the next role. You don't need anybody's permission. Product management is as much about the mindset as about the tasks. Again, the next role may take a while to come but most people start thinking about it at that later time. So have that mindset early even as early in the first 90 days. There are subtle ways to do this - your body language, your communication, even the way you dress and show up. I have seen product managers in Silicon Valley who do not dress appropriately and then they wonder why people don't take them seriously.
Hope that helps. We wish you all the best and a bright future ahead. We are always around for the next 20 years whenever you need our help.