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5 Key Lessons on Embracing Failure in Agile Product Management

It goes without saying that failure is a necessary evil. Explore how a product manager's role in agile has evolved—and how to make it work.
Stakeholder management blog post featured image | Phrase

Some of the most revolutionary inventions in history were products of countless botched experiments. Take YouTube for example. The second largest search engine in the world was once a video-dating site—and it failed miserably. Days after they launched, no one had uploaded a single video, forcing the founders to rethink their options. Mistakes are an inseparable part of the innovation process. Nevertheless, failure should always be deemed an opportunity for growth. This guide will shed light on a product manager's role in agile and show you how to turn failure into success.

Losing business focus

Agile development comes with many perks. Despite all of its advantages, many product managers fail to be effective in such an environment. This often happens when managers are plunged into this unfamiliar environment when they’ve yet to fully understand this new approach, as well as the changes it brings.

Part of your job as a product manager is ensuring that your agile development team understands your vision and strategy before they start developing. Of course, you must always be ready to answer their questions. Often, product managers neglect this. They may excel in other responsibilities such as managing budgets and communicating strategies to stakeholders. But they sometimes fall short when it comes to this part of their job.

If you’re struggling to adapt to this new environment, you ought to take a course or two about working with Agile development teams. There’s nothing wrong or embarrassing about that. Honing your skills as an Agile product manager will enable you to be more efficient and effective in your job. This training is crucial to the success of your projects, especially when you also serve as a product owner. A skilled product manager will not only add value to the business but empower employees to follow their lead.

Not reaching out to customers

Are you engaging with your customers? If not, you should! As a product manager, it’s your job to understand consumers and communicate their needs to the rest of the organization. A successful product manager always puts the needs of the customers first. Holding customer councils or reaching out to them online will help you understand the market. More importantly, it should boost your credibility with your teams.

The best way to collect data about your target audience is to actually talk to them. Setting up meetings, online or offline, will help you understand their pain points and determine the best approach to solve them. After every meeting, you can make a summary of your conversation and forward it to other team members such as engineers. This way, your team can work on the features that your consumers will certainly value the most.

Sometimes, customers don’t really know what they want when you ask them. To be able to identify what you need to offer them, you have to do more than just ask for their requirements. You can do an experimental approach by creating minimal viable products (MVP). For instance, you can come up with a new product or website to satiate the needs of early adopters. By observing customer behavior on your MVP, you can determine which features they use and avoid. After collecting the feedback of initial users, you should use that data to enhance your final product.

Making assumptions

Product managers get easily excited about emerging technologies—whether it’s blockchain, augmented reality, or wearable devices. Often, the difference between a good product manager and a bad one is their ability to assess and prioritize technologies based on the current and future needs of consumers.

Again, you always have to put the customer first. The needs of customers, as well as their potential desires, ones they’ve yet to be aware of, should be the basis of your agile product management decisions. To understand what the market demands, you ought to attend conferences or listen to podcasts. There are also good product management resources that should keep you informed of the best practices and techniques.

Letting your agile product management skills go stale

Perhaps this is the most common mistake that product managers make. Once comfortable and successful, many product managers settle with what they know and what they have. They fail to expand their knowledge and acquire new skills that can make them an even better product manager. Maybe it’s also because not all companies offer comprehensive product management training.

Most of the time, it’s up to you to take the initiative to explore new arenas and hone your skills. Many product managers pay out of their own pocket to attend conferences since their companies won’t reimburse them. However, if you’re looking to get ahead of the competition, you ought to start investing in yourself as well.

Much like how the tech scene is always evolving, product managers’ responsibilities are constantly changing. To stay relevant and competitive, you need to refresh your skills, expand your knowledge, and find new strengths in new landscapes.

Never stop improving

Successful product managers embrace failure and see it as an opportunity for growth. Those who blame other people for their mistakes will be trapped in a cycle of failure until they start accepting responsibility for their errors.

Always remember that successful careers aren’t built overnight. To succeed in agile product management, you ought to start acknowledging your mistakes and see them as valuable lessons. You ought to be more customer-driven. More importantly, you should never stop working on yourself. No matter where you are in your career, there’s always room for growth. You should continue to hone your skills and expand your knowledge.

Failure is a great teacher. Instead of fearing it, you must embrace it. Only then will you understand that it’s an opportunity to improve your skills, expand your knowledge, and grow professionally.