Product & Community

Design template from

Community managers already wear a lot of hats. 🧢 One I don’t see very often? A product management hat 🎩. But when they do, great things can happen. ✨

Why? Applying product management principles will help you better understand your community, which will ultimately lead to the creation of better experiences, features and programs. What are you waiting for? Dive in. 🏊‍♀️

What do Product Managers do?

Good question. 🙋‍♀️ Being a Product Manager is all about creating the most value for your user — at the intersection of business need, design, technology, and user experience. Do that by:

Sensing: Look for opportunities — what value can I create and for whom? Learn this from your community by:

  • Asking open-ended questions
  • Seeing (observing) people and processes
  • Engaging others in co-creation activities to uncover new patterns of behavior

💡#ProTip — people are simply guessing how they might act or what they’ll like, need or use. That is why it’s important to observe them to identify the problems they are attempting to solve instead.

Seizing: How to create, capture, and deliver value?

  • Understand what your communities needs and wants are, while keeping in mind the goals of the [company]
  • Capture the value and uniqueness of your community

Transforming: How to communicate value and vision?

  • Involving your community every step of the way
  • Developing with your community
  • Being transparent around your actions

Deliver innovation!

Product managers want to deliver innovate products. Innovation brings in fresh ideas, perspectives and solves new challenges. To have truly transformational communities, innovative thinking is a must. Timing matters for innovation, and sometimes the community may not be ready for “new”. Storytelling, or how you frame offerings and educate users is also crucial for this. Some steps to the innovation process are:

  1. Understanding communities needs
  2. Generating insights
  3. Generating ideas
  4. Combine and refine ideas
  5. Experiment and learn
  6. Mobilize and execute

Stop, collaborate and listen.

Collaboration and cross functional work is the bread and butter of product management. Make sure you’re cosy with engineering and UX when developing new features and experiences. Community shouldn’t be in a silo.

Diverse and balanced teams are a key to success, with opposing strengths. In order for folks to feel safe to contribute, and to perform better, there needs to be a high level of psychological safety. Some easy wins around this are:

  • Ask how someone got to a decision before shooting down their idea
  • Prevent people from being interrupted or spoken over by others
  • Set up a “parking lot” for long winded people
  • Get to know the folks on your team
  • Finding commonalities to build relationships
  • Set up virtual coffees and intro meetings before you first collaborate

Focus on the value.

Product managers are constantly talking to their customers to understand their needs. Do they same with your community. Be community obsessed! Think from the POV of value and benefits for the community, instead of just focusing on feature ideas. You want to focus on the value first, so get out of your bubble and make sure you actually talk to your community and understand the individual members journey and experience.

Two things to note: their journey may extend beyond the moments that they’re using your community, and that you can’t always ask your community directly what they want. “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses” 🐎 — Henry Ford. One way to ask better questions is to use open ended questions, or even ask them to draw out their experiences!

Understand the lifecycle of your community.

Understanding the community “lifecycle” is key 🔑 as your community may plateau and experience many phases such as: growth, maturity and decline. Surviving these mean that you have identified and can leverage on your communities uniqueness at each phase.

In the growth phase you want to understand the “market fit” of your community as well as learn and test fast to reduce any risks and maximize growth. Maturity then allows you to expand and optimize on the things that are working and that continue to differentiate your community.

For these phases, create a roadmap (prioritized list of ideas and features). You should always have a backlog of ideas to evaluate, and prioritize during the right stage. Prioritizing the right things to add, change or remove, at the right time is important. For each change, make sure that you have clear goals, transparency, buy-in, decision speed and are able to defend your ideas and the decisions made.

Program Manager @ Google. I write stories around: Design, Community, Product, Sustainability, Philosophy, Work, Career.

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