Decision making is often the determining factor between success and failure for product managers. Making the right call can propel a product to new heights, fueling growth and success for your entire company. Making one bad decision can waste valuable resources and hurt your reputation internally, while giving competitors a chance to build momentum as you sputter. So, how do successful product leaders make the right decision more often than not?

It usually comes down to two factors: data and experience.

We’ve partnered with Jam to research and reveal how product managers work and make decisions. Together we collected answers from top product managers in their fields to better understand work habits, processes, and tools. Our goal is to democratize best practices by leveraging experiences and insights from the PM community; gathering this information allows us to share success stories and failures that the greater community can learn from.

To make this a valuable resource for everyone, we need your help - we need more input from the community in order to build a database of benchmarks and best practices. Your answers will remain completely anonymous, and when the study is complete, we’ll notify you and share the full results.

If you are a product manager who is interested in learning from others, go here and fill out our questionnaire.

Below is a sneak peek at some of the data we’ve collected so far. Let’s start by looking at some of the data we’ve collected around product decisions, team dynamics, and processes/tools:

Decision Making:

Your first priority is connecting with your product team and learning what they're about, what's on their mind, what the tensions are (both in the product and in their process). By truly listening and engaging with your team in the very beginning, you can identify areas where you can make an immediate impact and begin building momentum. I honestly believe that momentum is one of the most critical things you can provide to a team as a PM, so you want to nurture and cultivate that ASAP.

- Senior Product Manager, 3 years experience

We all have a bias towards action, but you need to have an understanding of the situation before acting. Discovery is valid for the team and org dynamics in the same way it is for product development.

- Head of Product, 11+ years experience


Time management is one of the biggest challenges a Product Manager faces. For critical/immovable things, I ensure there is time reserved. For lower priority things, I am a little more fluid with how time is spent. One of the key things to be cognizant of is the need to reserve time to work on forward thinking and planning, otherwise it's very easy to get lost in the day-to-day but lose sight of direction of travel.

- Senior Product Manager, 10 years experience

I don't love context shifting, though it's difficult to avoid as a PM. I find I really need time and space to think deeply about a particular issue, so I design my week as follows:
  • Mondays and Fridays are for planning, catching up with my team, tying up loose ends, being available on Slack, etc. They're generally chaotic.
  • Tuesday through Thursday is all about focus and tackling a few key tasks each day.

- Senior Product Manager, 3 years experience


I don’t expect to see massive fluctuations on a daily basis and anything we do in marketing needs to play out over time after the initial impact.

- Product Director, 10 years experience

Data is central to my decision-making process and the trade-offs I make. Viewing daily allows me to see more of the picture and ask the right questions.

- Product Owner, 4 years experience

Seeing response from real customers is one of the more interesting parts of the role, plus it enables you to spot issues/opportunities and talk to product performance more easily.

- Head of Product, 11+ years experience


Roadmaps and Product Development

I work in a competitive industry often based around pricing strategies, these would be difficult to share publicly.

- Head of Product, 11+ years experience

I share my roadmap internally. We do not share it externally as things always change and we don't want to over promise.

- Senior Product Manager, 5 years experience


I try to start with the end in mind. Both from a users perspective (what goals are our users trying to achieve) and from the company’s perspective (what are we trying to achieve as an organization). If we discover that these aren't aligned then we can bring the data and discuss together.

- Product Owner, 4 years experience

A roadmap is pointless if it doesn’t help a company reach its objectives. The roadmap’s ‘why’ are the objectives. The ‘what’ are the features driven by customer feedback.

- Product Director, 10 years experience


Much cheaper to prototype and get feedback than build it and get it wrong!

- Senior Product Manager, 3 years experience

Makes it tangible, but with limited investment. Allows you to gather feedback quickly.

- Head of Product, 10 years experience

Getting a feature in front of customers are soon as possible can help make informed decisions.

- Senior Product Manager, 5 years experience


Customers also come first and interviews to understand their needs and motivations are key. This does not mean they should drive development but their signals should be the first indication on what really matters.

- Senior Product Manager, 6 years experience

It's not one of these things! You need to understand the business goals, which involves talking to key stakeholders. Once we have those, then we can come up with ideas of what we want our product to achieve. Then we talk to users to understand how they like our product, and what we might need to adapt or change to move the needle in terms of business goals. Depending on what we're trying to do, I might also look at the quant data, if we want to get an idea of what levers we have to pull, or where users are falling out of a flow. That will give us ideas for how we can achieve our business goals.

- Senior Product Manager, 3 years experience


Marketing should be involved from inception, so they can provide input early on product naming, schedule, launch targets, etc.

- Product Director, 10 years experience

Too early and you're wasting their time. Too late and you don't give them time to come up with a strategy, nor have you allowed them to provide input.

- Head of Product, 10 years experience


Technical debt is a constant. Failing to repay it can lead to bugs and/or slower productivity. It is also demotivating for Engineers to be forced to work on sub-optimal features with no pathway to improving the tech. To the extent possible, I will always ensure each sprint includes some technical debt, either discrete pieces or (preferably) baked into and supporting the feature work.

- Senior Product Manager, 10 years experience

I plan this with the engineering leads. We try and arrange doing this a little bit at a time so we don't end up over our heads, and I go on their guidance in terms of figuring out how important individual tech debt pay down activities are.

- Senior Product Manager, 3 years experience


Communication and Team Dynamics

The whole business needs to get behind a roadmap for it to be successful. I will always have a written roadmap with key data and assumptions for sharing, but full transparency is key. Everyone in the business (commercial and tech) should feel ownership of the roadmap and empowerment to challenge it.

- Senior Product Manager, 10 years experience

You kind of need to do all of the above. Having a central wiki or doc of sorts that is a continual resource for people looking for more detail and data on *why* your work matters is essential, as is having a prop and a vision that reminds people of *what* you're building towards. Share your strategy in multiple formats - it will refine your thinking and help communicate it across the org.

- Senior Product Manager, 3 years experience


Part of my job as a Product Manager is to align people behind common goals. This invariably involves compromise. Having said that, data is often my tie-break tool of choice. If the organisation has healthy OKRs, data underpinning the strategy and product plan goes a long way to helping executives and product people flex to a common answer.

- Senior Product Manager, 10 years experience

Our measures of business value should be the same, with real data we can build confidence behind our approach. If our success measures aren't the same to other teams this exercise would elicit that gap so we can align again.

- Head of Product, 11+ years experience


First figure out impact with the team, then communicate upwards. Senior leadership wants proposed solutions, not explanation of problems.

- Product Director, 10 years experience

The engineering team has the greatest ability to assess technical options and impacts - and has the strongest immediate stake in the successful outcomes from their work. Senior/executive stakeholder input will be valuable in prioritizing the additional effort against other options.

- Senior Product Manager, 6 years experience


The person's manager is responsible for their well-being and for their ability to contribute. They need to be aware of the issues and to work with you if you've exhausted direct measures.

- Head of Product, 11+ years experience

I prefer to solve problems directly with team members in the first instance. Escalation is the last resort. Having said that, if 1:1 interaction isn't helping us progress, as a Product Owner I know that whilst I have a vested in interest in team engagement, I do not manage Engineers or have accountability for their productivity. This being the case, failing 1:1 resolution I'd loop in the Tech Manager.

- Senior Product Manager, 10 years experience


Want to see the full results? Fill out our questionnaire here and we’ll notify you when the full results are published.