Oct 31 2018

Goal Setting For Product Managers

Setting goals

In order to accomplish anything important, you need to set multiple goals. Your goals need to be both in the big and in the small. The small goals that you set every day will help you hit the larger ones in the end.

It’s often automatic and easy for a non-scheduled event to have a goal because that goal was the impetus for the event. However, it’s easy for your goal-orientation to suffer when you’re following a process (like SCRUM) which includes scheduled activities and ceremonies. Don’t let a recurring meeting on your calendar drive your day. We’re not trying to fill our day with “work”, we’re trying to achieve a goal. Not all work will do that even if it keeps us “busy”.

For example, you shouldn’t have a sprint planning meet if you have no idea what the goal(s) for the sprint should be. The goal isn’t to do 27 points of stories. The stories are a means to an end. The goal needs to be something more like “complete payment processing”.

You’ll also want to set a goal for things as small as a single call. Before you do just about anything the first thing you should do is ask: What do I want to get out of this?

Goals reduce busy work

Many people appear busy but never get anything done. They are too fixated on checking boxes off a to-do list to take a moment to understand how that helps them achieve a goal. Usually it’s because they never clearly set a goal in the first place.

Resist the temptation to clear up small things first and do those quick “to-dos”. If you choose to start your day working on low-value tasks you may never run out of them, which means you won’t get to the important work that advances your goals.

I don’t need to write my goals down because I think about them all the time. I am constantly evaluating if what I’m doing is advancing them which makes them impossible to forget.

Goals encourage agreement

When working as part of a team you need a shared goal and you must ensure the entire team understands that goal. No other work should be done until the goal is clear to everyone.

If there is disagreement as to the goals it’s the leaders job to decide and often that’s the PM. Being incorrect is typically less harmful to your team’s productivity than being indecisive or unclear.

Setting clear goals anchors not just you, but the entire team. This will allow you and the team to more easily evaluate requests or suggestions.

For example, if a designer makes a feature suggestion you are now able to evaluate it in the context of how it impacts your goal(s) and that’s typically less subjective than evaluating if it’s just generally a “good” feature. Everything seems worth doing in a vacuum, but few things will really advance your goals. This should be obvious to everyone which helps avoid arguments over what should be done or not done. The goals are your anchor point.

It’s OK to be a broken record…. “How does this help us [INSERT GOAL]?” is the first question you ask if you aren’t 100% sure of the answer.

Goals prevent micromanagement

If you’re clearly setting goals then your team will gain the confidence to make judgment calls on little and large things which they know will help achieve those goals. Without knowing the goal, a teammate will be less likely to make his own decisions and instead ask for instruction. He will also be less likely to come up with his own solutions. Without clear goal-setting, you’re not tapping into all of the team’s potential. It’s OK for you to set the goal, but you need the team’s help to achieve it!

Nick Kishfy