Product School

How to Succeed in Your First 90 Days as a Product Manager

Swaroop Desai

Author: Swaroop Desai

October 11, 2023 - 12 min read

Updated: January 24, 2024 - 12 min read

Your first 90 days as a Product Manager in a new role can feel both nerve-wracking and exhilarating. This is when you get to make a lasting impression and set the wheels in motion for future success, so it’s important to get these first three months right! Fortunately, you’re not alone as you navigate this journey. This comprehensive guide is packed with actionable insights to not only survive but thrive during your first 90 days as a Product Manager. 

Editorial note: This post is based on a talk on the First Few Days of a PM in a New Role by Meta Product Leader, Swaroop Desai, and contains additional insights and examples from the Product School team. You can watch the webinar in full below.

Your first 30, 60, and 90 days

Let’s start by breaking down this timeline to get a better idea of what milestones you can expect to achieve during your first three months in a new Product Management role.

Your first 30 days

This first stage primarily revolves around soaking up knowledge. It's your time to learn the ropes and set the foundation for the journey ahead. 

Your first 60 days

Moving forward, the next 30 days is when you delve deeper into the nuances of your role, gaining a clearer understanding of specifics and celebrating small victories.

Your first 90 days

By the time you reach the final stretch, it's all systems go! This period is about making a lasting impression, launching products*, and truly making a mark in your new role.

*Launch is a critical time that can make the difference between product success and failure. Use this Free Product Launch Checklist to make sure you don’t forget anything important!

With that said, let’s take a closer look at how to set yourself up for success in the first 90 days as a Product Manager in a new role. 

Top 10 Tips for a PM in a New Role

1. Learn, learn, learn

To make a genuine impact in your new role, you need to understand the organization's current status and its ambitions. Understanding the gap between the present situation and the organization’s future vision will give you a sense of how you can help achieve the company's goals. You’ll also need to take charge of your learning in these key areas:

Role and responsibilities

Take the time to understand your role and responsibilities, as well as what’s expected of you. These expectations come from two primary fronts: leadership, which provides the overarching goals and vision, and your immediate team, who relies on your day-to-day guidance and decision-making capabilities.

Industry insight

Make a conscious effort to stay updated with the latest industry trends. Diving deep into industry news, and prior milestones can provide a rich context for your decision-making processes.

Master team dynamics

One of the pillars of effective product management is recognizing and understanding the team's organizational structure and dynamics. Several layers come into play here:

  1. Leadership Structure: Knowing the company's hierarchy is pivotal. Who you report to and the chain of command can greatly influence how decisions are made and executed.

  2. Lateral Dynamics: Equally important are your day-to-day interactions. How you collaborate and communicate with colleagues at your level often dictates the pace and efficiency of project execution.

  3. Cross-functional interactions: A product manager often acts as a bridge between various departments. Whether it's legal, privacy, marketing, or any other team, understanding and fostering healthy relationships with cross-functional teams is crucial for the seamless roll-out of products.

  4. Direct Reports: If you're in a position where individuals report directly to you, it's imperative to have clarity about their roles and what they expect from you as a manager. Nurturing these relationships and ensuring open channels of communication can lead to increased productivity and team satisfaction.

  5. Peers: Lastly, your relationship with peers is paramount. They often provide the much-needed support, insights, and collaborative spirit required to navigate the challenging terrains of product management. Building and maintaining harmonious relationships with them can be instrumental in your success as a Product Manager.

The Career Cold Start Algorithm

When you’re in the learning stage, it’s important to rapidly understand your new role and the environment. Here’s a potent tool to do just that – the career cold start algorithm. Here’s how it works:

Start by selecting five individuals and ask them to outline everything essential for your role. Pose a consistent set of questions about such as the challenges they confront and potential opportunities. After your discussions, request referrals to another five individuals. Continue this cycle until you reach a point of diminishing returns. This method offers a rapid overview of the challenges, opportunities, and various perspectives within your company.

Master the 3 Ps: Product, Process, and People

As a newbie, it’s crucial to quickly get up to speed in key three areas: Product, Process, and People.

  • Product Mastery: Familiarize yourself with the product. Use it, scrutinize previous product documentation, explore its features, and perhaps even audit it. Understand your clientele - this insight will be your compass throughout your product journey. Lastly, get a clear idea of the metrics: how does your team measure success?

  • Process Comprehension: Grasp the current processes of your team. These insights will highlight potential areas for refinement. As you absorb this knowledge, resist the urge to instantly highlight flaws. It’s your learning phase – absorb, observe, and take thorough notes.

  • People Dynamics: Understand your team members, their motivations, and unique skill sets. By understanding how to best support them, you can ensure that each team member performs their best.

Accelerate the Break-even Point

During your 90-day onboarding, aim to balance the value you take in with what you contribute to your team. Initially, your net contribution might be zero, but over time, you'll begin contributing more than you've consumed.

2. Roadmap for Product YOU

Your professional journey in your first 90 days as a Product Manager is a product, and like any other product, it requires a roadmap. While the concept of personal roadmapping might seem abstract, a structured template can bring tangibility to it. Here's a simple approach:

  • Define success: Begin by visualizing the enhanced, knowledgeable, and confident Product Manager you aspire to become. What are the skills and competencies you wish to possess? This vision serves as your destination.

  • Identify learning objectives: Outline what you need to learn in the first 90 days. This could be about the product, the industry, the company culture, or any other domain pertinent to your role.

  • Set milestones and goals: With a clear vision in place, the next step is to outline specific, achievable targets that incrementally build towards your ultimate goal.

  • Estimated timeline: Timeboxing is an effective tool in product management, and it's equally valuable here. Set timelines against each milestone, ensuring you're pacing yourself adequately.

  • Build Accountability: Share your personal roadmap with both your manager and your team. This serves a dual purpose. Firstly, it holds you accountable to the goals you've set for yourself. Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, it fosters trust within the team. They see your commitment to growth and can support your journey.

And remember, you don’t have to do this alone. Identify individuals within the organization that can support your learning objectives. These mentors can offer insights and resources to help you on your journey the becoming "2.0 version" of yourself.

Develop a 30-60-90 Day Plan

As part of the broader roadmap, it’s also helpful to have a 30-60-90 day plan. The first 30 days might focus on immersion, understanding the lay of the land. The next 30 could delve into deeper involvement, taking on projects, and forming collaborations. The final stretch, leading to the 90-day mark, could revolve around consolidation, reflecting on learnings, and charting the path forward.

Sharing this plan with your manager can be invaluable. It's an opportunity for them to provide feedback, add inputs, and guide you further. A well-crafted plan outlines your priorities, strategies to achieve them, your learning goals, and milestones to gauge success. Receiving timely feedback on this can accelerate your growth trajectory and ensure alignment with organizational goals.

3. Build relationships

Cultivating relationships might sound daunting, but in many instances, it's one of the simplest tasks. It doesn't require elaborate strategies or immense time commitments. A few genuine interactions, consistent check-ins, as well as just being present can lead to significant relational dividends. And while the effort might be minimal, the outcomes are profound. Strong relationships lead to better team cohesion, smoother communication, and more effective collaboration.

4. Establish credibility and secure early wins

As you integrate yourself into a new team or role, one of the most potent strategies to establish trust and showcase your competency is to secure early wins. These aren't necessarily grand gestures or transformative changes but are, more often than not, small victories that ripple through the team, fostering confidence and optimism. By actively participating and aiding in these successes, you underline your dedication to the team's overarching goals. These initial achievements also offer you a platform to demonstrate decision-making prowess. 

However, it's not just about making decisions—it's about bringing a fresh perspective to the table, a unique lens that might shed light on nuances previously overlooked. Sharing these insights openly not only solidifies your position as a valuable team member but also fosters an environment of collaborative growth.

5. Align with your team

Alignment begins by sculpting a shared vision. It's more than just laying out a plan; it's about creating a collective dream and securing buy-in from everyone involved. However, alignment isn’t a one-off event; it’s an ongoing process that requires mutual understanding and collaboration.

Deep alignment is the result of strong processes where people have had a chance to express their perspectives and understand others well. Building an environment of inclusivity and respect for each other’s differences is pivotal in this regard. 

Some might be more comfortable sharing asynchronously through documents, while others thrive in face-to-face discussions. Ensure every meeting becomes a platform where everyone has an opportunity to voice their perspective. 

Check out this article for more tips: Build A High-Performance Async Product Team In Four Steps.

Lastly, the bedrock of a truly cohesive team is the sense of psychological safety—a space where everyone feels comfortable sharing, even if it's a dissenting viewpoint. As a product manager, your role extends beyond just product outcomes. It's about championing ideas, giving credit where it's due, and ensuring that every team member feels valued and heard. When you nurture such an environment, not only do you get the best out of everyone, but you also pave the way for innovative and truly inclusive products.

6. Focus on Execution

In product management, it's all about simplicity. Make sure you have a good understanding of workflows, identify any gaps, and improve processes to better suit the team.

Run efficient and effective team meetings and if issues arise, tackle them head-on to keep the team's momentum rolling. Remember, a clear strategy keeps things moving smoothly.

7. Strategy

Once you’re clear about the product mission and vision, analyze the team's game plan for reaching that vision and pinpoint any gaps or elements that haven't been working out. 

Brainstorm with the team, ensuring you all stay focused on identifying issues rather than jumping to quick fixes. Collaboratively craft a solution so that you can come up with a succesful strategy.

With these insights and a few initial successes under your belt, you're now equipped to lead the way and refine the strategy. It's your time to take the reins!

Top Tip: Check out our Free Product Strategy Template! Better decision-making is just a click away.

8. Take charge

By now, you should have a solid grasp of your surroundings. Start leading meetings confidently and embrace the practice of written collaboration for key documents, ensuring they're well-organized for the benefit of the current team and any new members. Remember, communication is key. Express your ideas in various formats—whether verbally, in writing, or visually—catering to everyone's preferred style. 

And remember, as a product manager, your role isn't just decision-making, but facilitating consensus within the team and with external stakeholders. Above all, embrace all the responsibilities of a product manager, acting as the driving force that clears obstacles and ensures the team can focus on their core tasks.

9. Launch your feature

If you feel confident about a feature, prepare to launch it. Start by drafting your product specifications and sharing them with key stakeholders to ensure alignment. If in doubt, over-communication is better than under-communication, especially in hybrid or remote work environments. 

As you roll out your new feature, adhere to a pre-agreed deployment process to keep everyone in the loop. Make it a point to communicate the launch both internally and externally. 

Preparation is key, so have a testing strategy in place and conduct user tests where necessary. Keep a watchful eye on your metrics dashboards to gauge the feature's impact, and always be mindful of the bigger picture by monitoring guardrails to ensure there are no adverse effects.

10. Land and celebrate

After launching, regularly update your team and leadership on the results. Highlight how their hard work ties into the bigger objectives and adjust strategies when necessary. 

Finally, and most importantly, always remember to celebrate your team's successes and review the journey, learning from what went well and what didn’t go well to continually iterate and enhance your processes and products.

Five key takeaways

1. Prioritize building relationships for long-term success.

2. Boost your knowledge about the product, industry, and process.

3. Earn your team's trust by securing early wins.

4. When you're confident, take the lead.

5. Always back your team and support them at every turn.

We hope you’ve found these tips useful for your first 90 days as a product manager in a new role. You can do this!

And remember, Product School always has your back with a ton of free resources to help you on your Product Manager journey! 

Updated: January 24, 2024

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