💡 Find and Capture Scope

How to grow your responsibilities and career at the same time.

What differentiates junior and senior product managers? While this varies at each company, there seem to be two universal skillsets:

  1. Meta-Execution: the ability to empower capable leaders on your team to drive meaningful parts of execution. Doing this helps your team grow, create more aggregate impact and free up your capacity to focus on strategy.

  1. Create scope: proactively identify and capture opportunities outside of your current areas of responsibility. These allow you to create impactful work for your product team while helping you grow your own career.

In a past essay, I explain what scope is and why great PMs should want to create scope. Today, I want to talk about how to identify and capture opportunities to grow your scope.

🔦 Identifying Pivotal Scope

Scope is the area you are responsible for as a product manager. Let me explain with an example.

Six months into my product management journey, I became a PM on the Growth team for  Watch, the video destination within the Facebook app. I was the most junior PM on the team.

The growth team (at the time) consisted of three “pods” - activation (acquiring new users), retention and international markets (products for specific markets). Each of these had its own product team and was led by a PM.

The size of the box represents the scope of the team (and thus the PM). The dots are a visualization for the team's resources — be it engineers, access to leadership or ownership of key metrics.

From this example, you can see that scope is directly tied to:

  1. How senior you are as a product manager

  2. The resources (ex. team size, budget) you have at your disposal

  3. Because of the two things above, scope is also tied to how much impact you can create for the product

All of these are good things to have and a PM who is looking to grow should seek to grow their scope.

The million-dollar question becomes: how can I create more scope?

I’ve thought about this a lot and I think there are three ways to grow your scope:

🌁 Extension

Key question: what’s an area adjacent to your current scope that can drive meaningful impact?

Often, there are areas that your current scope may interact with that you are not investing in. For example, when I was working on WhatsApp Payments in Brazil, there was an opportunity to build out a more unified approach to payment compliance across all of the countries we were operating in.

Noticing these extensions requires understanding your product space well and seeing where you can add value. If you ever find yourself saying, “That’s out of scope” seek to understand if this is an area you can really invest in.

⏰ Moments in Time

Key question: how has the world changed and what can we do about it?

When major shifts happen, opportunities arise. These shifts may be in the form of

  • New laws/policies that affect your product area

  • Strategy shifts within your company

  • Strategy shifts of your competitor

  • World-changing events like COVID-19 or new technology research

If you notice that one of these shifts will affect your product, find ways to capture this scope (discussed in a moment).

⛓ Connecting Dots

Key question: how can we join forces with other teams to create more value together?

Socializing with other PMs inside and outside of your company is great for your personal development - but it also may help you find new scope.

When working on a video growth team, I had a chat with the product manager that led the “Saved” product (where you can save links, videos, posts and come back to them later). In chatting, we learned that there were some interesting experiments we could run that would let us both grow our top-line metrics.

Make time in your busy schedule to speak with other product managers across the organization. Counterintuitively, this may be a great way to help your current product area.

🧲 Capturing Scope

Finding scope is great. But turning it into “shovel-ready” work for your team is another ball game.

Regardless of how you find the scope, the next steps are usually the same: create a strategy for addressing this new area.

This involves:

  • Context and why now: share your latest understanding of the landscape and why now is the best time to invest.

  • Opportunity size: measure the impact of this new area against other investment opportunities by measuring the opportunity size against the top-line metric or OKR.

  • Plan of attack: how will you make progress in this new space? This may be a prioritized backlog of the features you may need to build, an understand roadmap to help you uncover more information etc.

  • Defining success: If all goes well with your plan of attack, what will we have accomplished? This may be a movement of a metric or a new understanding.

  • Resources: what new investments will we need to achieve success? This can be a headcount ask for more engineers, regular check-ins with executives or the ability to let other goals for your team slip in order to pursue this new initiative.

Here are two templates that may help you define your strategy:

  1. Initiative doc by Lenny Rachitsky

  2. Roadmap 1-pager by a Facebook PM

📝 Summary

The path to growing from a product manager into a product leader involves meta-execution and creating scope.

  • Scope is your area of responsibility. Find ways to grow this to grow your career and the impact your team can have.

  • When finding new areas of scope, look for extensions to your current scope, moments in time and opportunities to connect dots.

  • Once you’ve identified a worthwhile area, proactively create a strategy that helps you capture it.

📚 Reads and Resources

When to Make a Career Change by Sharmeen: Sharmeen decided to leave Twitch to join Facebook. This was a big move and she shares her thought process throughout.

Community DAOs by Patrick Rivera: DAOs are one of the most fascinating developments in crypto. Patrick does a great primer and shares how they can be used to build mores sustainable business models.

What needs to change? by Nikhyl Singhal: Nikhyl is a Facebook VP who shares case studies on when he needed to adapt to major changes. A great read for product managers.

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