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Effective Delegation Strategies for Product Managers

Everyone knows that relentless focus and prioritization are table stakes in managing a product to success. But as the product grows, and the list of priorities grows with it, it can become increasingly difficult to scale your own time and priorities as a busy PM. 

This is where effective delegation can help you scale the focus of your product to ensure every single detail gets the attention and care it deserves. Read on to understand more about the following tips for effective delegation:

  • Know the limits of your focus
  • Scale your time across multiple priorities
  • Find the right people for delegation
  • Track delegated tasks using project management tools
  • Adjust your delegation strategy

Focus Matters

Before we dive into how to delegate effectively, it’s important to understand why focus matters. Keep in mind these two fundamentals:

  • You are only one person and can only focus on a certain number of projects and tasks at a time. At some point, there are diminishing returns on the quality of the product as your focus spreads too thin across many competing tasks.
  • There are only 24 hours in one day. You can’t do it all yourself (and shouldn’t try to).  

When it’s time to delegate: Knowing when it’s the right time to delegate is extremely important, as it can be hard to see in our busy day-to-day mindsets. If you find yourself balancing 5 or more projects concurrently you’re probably stretching yourself too thin. Delegating can help ensure your product gets the attention to detail it deserves across the entire experience; it’s much better to ship 3 high quality projects than 5 low quality projects.

Time to market is valuable: Quality and details are important but we all have deadlines to meet both internally and for the market. Time to market is key to everything we do. Something great that you could have shipped yesterday is losing its impact and value every day if it’s not in your customers’ hands yet. You want to avoid competition beating you to market as best as you can. While the first mover advantage is not always a winning strategy, it can have a big impact in many markets (e.g. AWS).

Scale your time across multiple, growing priorities

Product management gets more difficult as businesses scale — and the list of priorities grow with it. Scaling time and focus across priorities is critical to managing this growth. Follow these guidelines:

  • Keep the product roadmap updated and always ensure product priorities are aligned with your company’s strategic priorities.
  • Delegate priorities and areas of focus to PMs who are best fit for ownership.

Find the right people

Passion truly matters in building a great product. Look for a team member who is sincerely passionate about a particular area and if their skills and expertise fit, help mentor them into becoming a PM for that particular area. A few tips to ensure that process goes smoothly:

  • Coach, but never micromanage. The purpose of delegation is to scale the product and the team gracefully. Be a coach and provide guidance and assistance where you can, but keep in mind that micromanaging loses trust and creates dependency.
  • Remember: each PM needs to drive and own the product vision for their own projects. Build a great working relationship and trust each other to do the best job possible.
  • Delegate respectfully. Give the person you are delegating some context for your request– “This is a really important area, and I think you’d be a great owner of this because you have X, Y, and Z experience.”

Delegate tasks with project management tools

Not every product team has a dedicated Project Manager to track and manage what they do. In fact, it’s your job as a Product Manager to ensure nothing falls through the cracks on delivering across these priorities you have set for your product. This means putting your project management hat on and tracking them. Here are some key tips:

  • Roll up your sleeves and do the work. “It’s not my job to track this stuff” is a Bad Product Manager excuse when a task needs to get done on one of your projects. You may not be the one doing the actual work, but if it’s missed or late – you can bet that you’ll be responsible.
  • Use a software tool like JIRA or Asana to track tasks, task owners, ETAs, and dependencies.
  • When in doubt, always follow up – and re-document the ETA and task owner.
  • Communicate project status and align on action items with your team weekly, at a minimum.

Adjust your delegation strategy

Things move fast in the day-to-day of a PM. Your delegation strategy should keep pace as things shift and evolve. Follow these tips to adjust your delegation strategy effectively:

  • At the end of each day, take the time and space to think carefully about how you spent your time. Did you get to everything you wanted to accomplish?
  • Write down what you didn’t get done and track your progress again the next day. If you continue to miss your mark, consider delegating to another person who fits your team’s criteria for taking on the task.

Learn something new about delegating recently? Feel free to add to this list of tips below.