What differentiates junior and senior product managers? While this varies at each company, there seem to be two universal skillsets:
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.
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.
From this example, you can see that scope is directly tied to:
How senior you are as a product manager
The resources (ex. team size, budget) you have at your disposal
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:
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?
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.
Context and why now: share your latest understanding of the landscape and why now is the best time to invest.
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:
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.
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