4 Things Every Product Manager Needs to Think About Before Development

For you product leaders that are struggling to make the tough tradeoffs. Our book’s definition of the Convergent Problem Statement can help. This excerpt references some strategies in establishing just that with your team in order to make product decisions much more efficient and durable.

The following excerpt is from Groundwork: Get Better at Making Better Products by Vidya Dinamani and Heather Samarin. 

The Convergent Problem Statement is just as useful for new products as it is to prioritize features for existing products. We love starting ideation with a couple of the most compelling problem statements, helping us to explore and ultimately prioritize which customer problem our business is best positioned to address. 

As a reminder, a convergent problem statement clearly describes the most relevant difficulty the customer is dealing with and is stated with no attempt to address possible solutions.

For product leaders, the best way to support your team is to be deeply involved and invested at this early stage. When you help your product manager (PM) work towards a Convergent Problem Statement, you set the Groundwork for a successful product. Here are some strategies to working with your PMs: 

  • Insist that every “idea” is framed as a problem statement. In our work, we’ve even created mini templates and asked anyone in the company to share product ideas as long as they write the ideas in the form of a problem and not a solution. This helps cut down the noise of new product ideas since there is the small hurdle of entering it as a well-formed problem statement. This practice helps our team source new ideas, and highlights people in the organization who are passionate about solving customer problems.
  • Share the iterations that helped you converge to the chosen problem. You want to show by example that no one gets it right the first time. By showcasing examples, you provide a roadmap for how you want your product team to think. Many problem statements start with a lot of guesses, and then you refine them through learning. Show that journey for your teams to emulate.
  • Highlight “failures” or problem statements that ended up abandoned because you proved there wasn’t actually a problem! We’ve all been captivated by new product ideas or solutions that we thought were so obvious. When we do the work we uncover that customers had a simple workaround, or felt lukewarm toward the idea, or discovered the problem wasn’t important enough to want to pay for a solution. We’ve shared when a customer’s “good-enough” solution was sufficient or the pain wasn’t high enough for them to choose an alternative. By highlighting examples, you demonstrate the rigor that brings a product or feature onto the roadmap. You’ll see all the teams you work with gain confidence knowing that customers are waiting for their solution.
  • Never assign development resources unless you are satisfied that there is a genuine Convergent Problem Statement. This can feel painful when there are engineers available and both you and your product manager feel the urgency to create work. You have to stay strong! You’ll avoid much pain and suffering (which can manifest as bad customer reviews, rework, and unhappy teams).


If you like what you see, there’s more where that came from. Pick up Groundwork: Get Better at Making Better Products by Vidya Dinamani and Heather Samarin from Amazon.

Product Rebels is a product management training and coaching firm run by long term product executives for companies like Intuit and Mitchell International. We have trained over 200 companies, small and enterprise level, in the skills and frameworks that help product management leaders and product managers deliver kick-ass customer experiences. We have a passion for finding efficient ways of infusing customer insight into everything product teams do in pursuit of experiences that customers love …and that drive growth.  Join us in the Product Rebels Community on Facebook or the Product Rebels Community on LinkedIn.

Take a look at our very practical training courses and coaching programs that give you practical tools, frameworks, and support you can use tomorrow in becoming a more effective product leader.  www.productrebels.com

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