If you want to be a bad product manager, keep answering the same questions over and over again. Part of your job is to be responsive and to answer questions from developers, sales representatives, and customers. Make sure you’re available and can help, since people appreciate it when they can get an answer quickly from a product manager. The more time you spend answering questions, the more credibility you will gain and the more they will appreciate you.
If you want to be a good product manager, try to never answer the same question twice. Rather than just answering the question, see if you can do something to prevent the question from being asked again. Developers, sales representatives, and other internal stakeholders probably appreciate your responsiveness. After all, that makes less work for them! Instead of them having to try to find the answer themselves, they know you can just do the work for them.
Answering questions is great for the person asking the question but bad for product managers because it is a drain on productivity. Of course these questions need to be answered, and building credibility is important, but there are much more efficient ways to accomplish both.
Pragmatic Marketing teaches that product managers should be focused on n = many, not n = 1. N = 1 is doing a task for one specific purpose, like answering a question for one sales representative, preparing an information sheet for one customer. N = many is doing a task that can be reused over and over, like preparing a FAQ document for all of the sales representatives, or creating sales support materials that can be used with many customers.
Every time you are asked a question, ask yourself these questions before responding:
- Is this something that the person asking the question should already know?
- Is this a question that others may have and I may get asked again?
- Is there a way that I can never have to answer this question again?
Once you have done that, the first thing to do is solve the immediate need, but then quickly follow up on #3. Create a FAQ if one does not exist, or add the question to your existing FAQ if it is not included . Update the Help section of your web site. Post additional information to your intranet. Create an email to distribute. Make sure that you never get asked the question again; when it comes up, people should be able to answer it themselves.
Of course, they will turn to you again. Maybe they forgot or did not know that there was a way to answer it themselves. Instead of ignoring the question or berating them for not knowing where to look, politely answer the question and remind them where they can go to get the answer in the future. Provide that stakeholder with a link to your intranet site with product information. Send the developer to the strategy document that addresses the issue in question. Remind the sales representative about the product wiki. Give the customer a link to the web page that provides the information they need.
The more you do this, the more it will start to sink in, and soon much of the time that you spend repeatedly answering the same question will instead be spent doing things that a product manager really should be doing, like visiting customers and planning your roadmap and updating your strategy. Being known as a product manager who can answer any question is good; being known as the one who has already answered them all is even better.