As a remote work product manager, embrace freedom and responsibility

Freedom and responsibility

As a product manager, your role inherently requires you to do many different type of tasks. In co-located teams, typically this results in a PM being in many meetings, consuming much of their work day. In a remote work setting however, you should be doing much of your work and communication async, because this is simply more effective. Consequently, remote work PMs should have more unscheduled time in their calendar. (If that’s not the case for you, read the above linked article, and also why you should avoid synced daily standups.) It’s thus important for a remote work PM to responsibly exercise this freedom, investing their times in the right tasks, in the right ratios.

Tasks

There’s a variety of tasks for a product manager, and in particular, a remote work PM. Here’s a list of typical tasks, which is definitely not exhaustive:

  • Prepare for and participate in Agile ceremonies
  • Schedule features and plan sprints
  • Write user stories
  • Plan, execute, and track work, collaborating with engineers, designers, and data folks
  • Review work in progress from the product development team
  • Analyze quantitative data
  • Engage with customers, collect feedback, and do customer development
  • Engage with partners and analysts
  • Engage with internal stakeholders
  • Establish, socialize, and iterate on the product vision, strategy, and roadmap
  • Establish a go-to-market strategy
  • Establish and surface success metrics

Be intentional

Depending on your work environment and particular job, as a remote work PM, you’ll have varying degrees of responsibility for these tasks and varying degrees of freedom on which ones to work on. Ultimately, you are responsible for the success of your product, and the strategy to achieve it. So a well-functioning organization should provide a relatively high level of autonomy for you to determine your own destiny, and as mentioned previously, that freedom should be higher for remote work teams, and higher still for smaller organizations with less established processes. In this environment, it’s crucial that you be intentional in your day-to-day execution. Constantly evaluate yourself and how you spend your time, be pro-active in accomplishing well-defined goals, and don’t fall into the trap of being reactive, constantly putting out fires as they appear. There will never be a shortage of work to do and so-called emergencies will always appear. Defend your time and stay focused on your remote work product management strategy.

Pre-empt miscommunication with over-communication

Given the wide variety of possible tasks, sometimes it may not be readily apparent what a PM is working on at any given moment. In a remote work organization, people should value results, and not hours. But human nature leads people to often worry unnecessarily when they can’t see actual bodies hunched over a computer. To offset and pre-empt any potential miscommunication, choose to always over-communicate what you are doing and how you are doing it. The what is fairly straightforward and natural, since PMs are typically collaborating with many stakeholders throughout the organization, and your presence will be readily felt, especially in a remote setting, since much of your communications will result in written artifacts. The how requires more intentional thought and care. Especially for product management, where a stakeholder may question why you’ve de-prioritized their particular important feature. It is incumbent upon you to provide a justification. The optimal strategy is simply documenting your personal product management process in written form, and frequently share it with stakeholders.

As a remote work product manager, embrace freedom and responsibility.

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