Early in my career as a product manager, I was asked in an interview, “How long will it take you to make an impact?” I was caught “off script” and don’t feel I adequately answered the question. It definitely resonated with me to reflect on and to develop a response. What has come out of that question is a rule that I sum up as: 90-360-3.
The 90-360-3 framework is designed to gain critical insights, visibility, and measurable objectives.
This rule can be used whether it is your first day or your tenth year on the job. The rule breaks down simply: over ninety days, take a 360-degree view of your company, and develop three top-line measurable objectives.
A “first one-hundred days” is pretty much accepted as a good checkpoint for measuring one’s effectiveness and overall trajectory. Typical business cycles and critical milestones run quarter to quarter; so, I find the ninety-day rule a good fit. Ninety days is a good rule of thumb, but the timing can be modified to fit other cycles more in tune with your company’s specific rhythms, e.g., weekly, monthly, or even semi-annually. I don’t recommend using this process beyond six months, since the intent is to develop a behavior that is agile, perceptive, and effective. Also, too short of a period can result in knee-jerk responses and unnecessary churn. Find a rhythm that is effective and sustainable, and make this a habit.
Central to the role of product manager is assuming the mantle as “general manager” for all aspects of your product.
Great product managers are always known to be the one person for any question about the product.
Your product is not just about the final instance you deliver to a customer. It embodies all of the decisions, actions, support, etc., that bring it to fruition. The process does not follow a narrow path that begins at the whiteboard and ends at the warehouse. Your role is to ensure a “holistic” product that is beyond the final article a customer holds. It embodies all the efforts of the project such as: research, feature trade-offs, BOM targets, margin contribution, distribution, support, positioning, packaging, etc. In the end, your efforts will translate to customers buying your product, becoming a repeat customer, and being an advocate for your product.
A holistic product can only be accomplished by building up a ritual to reach out to every group within your company. Navigating the various stages of building a product (e.g., ideation, concept testing, business analysis, requirements, development, etc.) there arise discrete times where the input of certain groups over others becomes more critical. However, it is always important to develop 360 degrees of presence, or to perform a walkabout across all groups in your company, even when you are not soliciting specific groups advice or input. Why? At a minimum, it is to
provide visibility into your product,
gain any additional or incidental insights from other points of view, and
connect other company members to add as champions for your product.
Finally, develop a manageable list of at least three key objectives to drive your activities for the next ninety days.
These activities should be: attainable, measurable, and impactful.
When it comes to lists, we can all easily become consumed with creating overwhelming lists. Keep things sane. Break things down to approachable tasks that will increase your overall success. Also, compact and focused lists are easier to articulate to management and key stakeholders.
In the end, to make it more flexible for your needs, the 90-360-3 rule can be rephrased as:
Design a rhythmic timescale right for you and your company.
Build regular and ongoing connections with all the groups in your company.
Develop a measurable and attainable set of objectives.
With this simple rule you will be able to create great holistic products for your company and customers.