Lead on Purpose

Promoting Leadership Principles in Product Management

How to use Measurement to Manage Like a Pro

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Guest post by Mary Prescott

I’m sure you’ve heard statements like these before:

“My team is exceptionally strong. They seem to be doing well”

“We’ve been improving. It’s hard to quantify, but I am sure we are getting there”

While you might hear these statements from any manager, they all have one thing in common: the lack of specificity. How strong is the team? How do you know that they are doing well for a given time period? How exactly – and based on what specific parameters – is your team improving?

Organizations need good managers and exceptional leaders (at all levels of your business). McKinsey Insights’ Pankaj Ghemawat references a survey of senior executives where 76% of them feel they need to develop global-leadership capabilities, but only 7% of feel they are doing so effectively.

Define Your Metrics

To measure or not to measure: that’s not even a question anymore. If you do not measure, you don’t get anywhere. It’s unproductive to begin without knowing what you want and how to measure your progress. Starting from your own performance metrics, you have to extend individualized and group metrics for your team. A research paper titled Metrics: You are what you measure by John R. Hauser and Gerald M. Katz from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Sloan School of Management, notes that metrics are in use everywhere, but if the organization uses the wrong metrics, they will not achieve the expected results.

Define the right metrics to measure individual goals and collective goals of the team. These ought to fall in line with the overall goals of the company.
Define. Create. Measure. Perform. Measure again.

Test your management strategies

How are you managing your team? The only way to know for sure is to test your ideas.
For instance, you might have a hypothesis that sales teams can work better when they meet clients and present their pitches with visual aids using mobile devices such as tablets. How do you know for sure?

Test your hypothesis: pick two groups of sales teams and allow one team to use sales aids such as laptops and tablets. The other group goes without any of these aids. Measure performance of both the groups. If the former group performs better, you’ll know that your hypothesis is right.

Find out if your decisions, plans, and strategies work first before deploying them.

It’s experimental. It’s a work in progress. That’s why most managers don’t risk doing it.

Dig into your data

What comes off from data might not give you the complete picture. It could seem obvious but if you dig deeper, more revelations will surface.

Depending on your goals — and the goals of your business — your data must serve to give you what not’s so obvious. Good managers see what’s not visible from data at “first look”. For instance, your customer satisfaction surveys could reveal that your customers buy X only so that they can avail a discount on Y. Meanwhile, you assumed that product X was a winner. Clearly, it isn’t.

While you assumed that your target audience was largely male, your sales records show that the majority of buyers were female. Have you been targeting the wrong base?
Peel off the “obvious” information from data and you’ll be able to align your business goals better.

Management isn’t just about goals

It’s easy to lose sight of “people” thanks to the inordinate focus on specifics, business goals, projects, and deadlines.

While efficiency and performance are certainly key inputs for effective business processes, it’s still people that you’d have to manage. Individual members of your team could have personal problems, friction points, and many other human elements that you’ll need to address.
Don’t lose sight of the people in the team. Take care of your team and the goals will fall into place.

Trust your guts

If management was only about making decisions based on all the measurements, numbers, statistics, analytics, and performance reports, almost anyone could be a good manager.

Sometimes, management is about guts.

When Bob Lutz’s guts made him leap into action to create what is today’s Dodge Viper, there were many naysayers. After a $80 million investment, Chrysler managed to create an outrageous sports car which was selling at $50,000. The sales team swore that no one would buy it. Yet, the Dodge Viper was a smashing success changing Chrysler’s image overnight.

The story repeats – in other industries – with the Steve Job’s iPhone, for instance.

The stories are everywhere. While you can’t depend on your gut for every decision, it surely plays a vital role in separating ordinary managers from the amazingly successful ones.

Mary Prescott is working as a community manager at WorkZone – A web-based project management software company. She is @MaryP_WZ on Twitter. When she’s not working, you’ll find her reading fiction or hiking with her dog.


The Product Management Perspective: Measuring product performance can be difficult, and it’s not a common practice for many product managers. However, the more specific you are about your products’ performance, the better your team members will understand their role its success. Focus not only on building great products, but also on ways you can measure your progress more successfully.

One thought on “How to use Measurement to Manage Like a Pro

  1. Really valid point about testing and learning. How on earth are you supposed to get better at what you do if you don’t try something new and then measure the result to see what happens?

    James

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