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Challenging Your Assumptions

Uncategorized Sep 13, 2020

One of the fundamental problems I hear from Product Managers is as follows. "I am the only person moving things forward. I am focusing on outcomes instead of outputs. Everyone else in my company sticks to the feature factory mentality." 

But ask yourself, is this a company problem or a problem with your mindset?

We, as humans, are meaning-making machines.  We are good at pulling facts into a story of our choosing. And often, product managers have built a narrative that their company is not good at product management.

Three main things will help challenge your assumptions and get a fresh perspective.  


First of all, look at the facts you’ve used to construct your assumptions. Ask yourself when they have turned out to be accurate and not.

Secondly, check when you’ve seen other people in your company evangelized excellent product management practices. Sometimes finding those little positives will help your mindset. 

Finally, start looking at obstacles as opportunities to transform your company instead. People will look at you as the leader they want, and you’ll get the product manager role you’ve always wanted.


Hey, everyone, it's Shobhit show and I am live today. You know, it's been a while since I've gone live, so I wanted to come and talk about one of the things that I always hear from a lot of folks that I coach, and the basic problem that I hear from folks is, "Shobhit, you don't understand. The company that I work for, it does not know how to do product management. I'm the only one who's really pushing it forward. Everyone else just wants to hang out and just build stuff and we're not outcome driven, we're output driven," and so on and so forth.

And I want to really ask you to ask yourself a very important question. Is it really a company problem or is it a mindset and an assumption problem. That's really what I want you to ask yourself. I'm going to go deeper into this.

So most of the times when people I'm coaching say that, it's because they have built a story. They've built a story that their company is not great at product management by looking at certain facts and we, as humans, we are meaning making machines. What are we? We are meaning making machines, which means we can take a small set of facts and pull them into a story and we're really good at doing that.

And so very often what happens is, even in a significantly large company, which is known to be good at product management, I get PMs coming and saying, "Hey, you don't understand, my group's awful." Or "My manager sucks." So what I'm going to ask you to do is to do three things. Number one, look at the assumptions you've made. Look at the facts that you've already taken into account to come up with that story and ask yourself, "When have they not been true? When have these facts not been true?" Not the one time where my boss just said, "Hey, just go do this. No research required," but have this not been true in some cases.

Second, what would happen, or the second one is, Hey James, have you seen other people done some really awesome product management practices, even though your company's not known to be awesome at that. And then third one, what if you change the story? What if you made your assumptions make something else or mean something else altogether? So for example, you say, "Nope, you're not good at product management." What if you were the leader who's going to take your company and make them maybe not the best, but go from level one to level two, level two to level three. If level 10 is the best company, you're just taking them one level at a time.

And I can tell you, it is so much easier to get from level one to two than it is to get from level nine to 10 and sold absolutely like... What I'm saying is, what if you look at it as an opportunity? What if, instead of it being the biggest obstacle and you feeling like your career is going nowhere, you're saying, "Hey my next story, when I go to my next company, will be the story of me transforming my company in product management."

And then everybody else would just want me, because they would be like, "Wow, that's the leader that we want." Because remember, when you think of the escape path, when you think of going throughout the company that's really awesome at these product [inaudible 00:04:28] and practices, I mean, why should they take you? And I don't mean to be harsh, but the fact is when you are going there, you're essentially presenting your story, right? You're presenting your story of why you are this amazing product manager.

And if you have no references to prove that story, the chance of you getting the job are none but even if you weren't able to transform your company fully, if you at least tried, you actually fought for what was right, now suddenly, you have all these stories of you making certain changes, moving things forward and now getting you that product management job.

And I'm saying "getting you" because I've worked with clients all the time, is so much easier because there's so much raw material to work with. So many things we can leverage. So what I'm here to tell you is, don't give up too easily. Try, move things forward one step at a time. Even if you feel that this is going to take long, it's going to be a fight, it's worth fighting. It's worth fighting the fight.

So look for what assumptions you're making that could be wrong. Ask yourself, "Have other people within my company made that transformation happen?" And then ultimately, "What are the bright spots?" Or, "What is the story I'm telling myself that's not true?" So that's really what you got do. And I just want to say two more things. First of all, I appreciate everyone's support, especially Eugene's. The encouragement you're giving, I really appreciate it and I want to answer your question.

So how do I proceed or get moving if I don't have those references or history? Example and branding, awesome. So here's what I want to say. So unless you're absolutely new in your career, you have those references or history, right? Even if you have not been in product management, you have done work that relates to product management in some other career.

In fact, I help people transition into product management all the time and so many times when I get on a call with them, I want to find out what product management related things have they done in previous roles. If they are an engineer, have they spoken to customers? Have they shown that leadership? If they were a sales engineer? Well, they certainly had customer piece, but have they gone and influenced product to change the direction of the roadmap?

So it's all these things that you know that extent just outside your defined role, that really helps you make that transition happen, and also when you start to see those things, your confidence level goes up and it's so much easier to get someone into product management if they have confidence versus if they don't. I mean, I'll just give you an example.

There's a product manager we worked with and this person, we got them from PM to Senior PM in an awesome new role. We'll soon have the case study coming out, but I think what this person did more than anything else is owned this story and transformed their confidence. Where they entered and where they left our program with that amazing new job, with a huge compensation bump included, it was all the confidence that made the ultimate difference.

And so, building up those references and whether it's even if you're not in a product management role, makes an amazing, huge difference. So, James, thank you so much for your comments and your questions and also for everyone, if you, again, need my help and want to share your story with me and enable me to walk you through a step by step plan of getting to the next step, I'm going to give you a link below shobhitchugh.com/apply, to set up a breakthrough session with me and I can't wait to chat with you, discover what references or history you already have and figure out how to either get you into product management, help you succeed in your new job, or if it's truly a dead end, help you get that new, awesome product management role.

Look forward to seeing everyone. Hope you all have a wonderful Labor Day weekend and, I almost said Memorial Day, I always get confused between the two. A wonderful Labor Day weekend and I'll see you back live very soon. Take care everyone.

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