Silicon Valley Product Group has a great series of articles focused on “coaching tools for helping managers of product managers to raise the level of performance of the product managers that report to them.”
The first article focuses on assessing the strengths of a PM, and provides a great framework with 3 dimensions.
This skills assessment is structured in the form of a gap analysis. The purpose is to assess the product manager’s current level of competence along each of several necessary dimensions, and then compare that with the level of competence that’s required for this particular team and company.
The first skill is product knowledge, which includes knowledge of user and customer, product features, data, industry and domain, business and company.
Product knowledge really is table stakes. A new product manager typically requires 2-3 months to ramp up to speed on product knowledge assuming she dives in aggressively and spends several hours per day learning.”
The second skill is process skills and techniques, which includes product discovery, product optimization techniques, delivery, and product development process.
New product managers are expected to know the basic techniques, but good product managers are always developing their skills and learning new and more advanced techniques. Much like a good surgeon is constantly following the latest learnings on surgical skills and techniques, a strong product manager always has more to learn in terms of process and techniques.
The third dimension is people skills and responsibilities, which includes team collaboration, stakeholder management, evangelism and leadership skills.
People skills are similar to product knowledge in that if you don’t have a solid foundation, it is very hard to do the PM job at all; yet as with process skills, strong product managers are constantly working to improve and develop their people skills.
While this can seem like a complete assessment, it’s not a checklist. Most PM’s have a specific lean or strength. What’s not included here is an innate connection with the product - either because of personal interest or a burning need to solve a problem. Magic happens when you combine skill with determination.