Facebook PM: You Need to Think Like A PM to Work in a Facebook R&D Team (Part 1)

A product team in which team members think and act like a product manager(PM) or even can make decisions on their own must function efficiently and consist of members with high initiative and strong e

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Facebook PM: You Need to Think Like A PM to Work in a Facebook R&D Team (Part 1)

Editor’s note:

What makes a great R&D team which can efficiently deliver high-quality work?

That is one of many questions that many PM and managers ask themselves every single day.

The author of this article Qu Xiaoyin is the current video product manager at Facebook. She had managed five product teams including Instagram, Advertising, Searching products in Facebook.

As an experienced PM, Qu Xiaoyin thinks, making everyone in the team stand in a PM’s shoes is vital.

First of all, it would help make the decision-making process much more efficient.

Besides, it can free PMs from chores and make better plans for the product in long-term.

This is the Part 1 of a 2-Part Series. Link to the Part 2.


Writer: Qu Xiaoyin

Photo by delfi de la Rua on Unsplash.

In the first year when I joined Facebook, I showed my well-prepared roadmap for the next year to my team members at a meeting near the end of the year.

My product designer who is a nice person and always does an excellent job made a lot of advice on my plan and asked me to revise the roadmap.

After the meeting, he told me that if he wanted to get another promotion, he had to be able to think like a PM and prove he can improve a PM’s roadmap. That’s why he racked his brain to offer suggestions for improvement when he saw my roadmap.

Later I noticed that except for the product designer, the project manager who wants to get promotion should also have the same strategic vision as PMs to play a key role in the product strategy. Outstanding data scientists can change the product development direction with data; excellent product operations staff are also renowned in a company for persuading PMs to change or improve their original roadmaps.

Well, all my team members want to be PMs, what am I supposed to do? I felt that it was quite difficult for me to make a decision as all my team members wanted to show off. I guessed this working mode must be inefficient.

Why all team members should keep product concepts in mind

Photo by Patrick Perkins on Unsplash

And now, after having led 6 different product teams in Facebook and Microsoft, I truly believe that a good product team needs everyone to be a PM.

If an engineer has never done what a PM does, then the engineer is likely to work in vain, and they will lack a sense of satisfaction in their works.

The users of the products developed by the product teams that I have worked for are different, including young people, advertisers, online and off-line celebrities, corporate users, and the composition of members of my teams are also different.

For example, I once led a team with many excellent designers and an advertising product team with many data scientists.

The commonality is that any team in which members rely on a PM to make all decisions is with negative morale, inefficient, and with poor execution.

However, a product team in which team members think and act like a PM or even can make decisions on their own must function efficiently and consist of members with high initiative and strong executive ability.

In fact, a product team in which everyone is a PM must be under the leadership of a particularly outstanding PM.

Let others make decisions

Photo by Jonathan Velasquez on Unsplash.

A good PM knows what decisions need to be made on his or her own, and what decisions should be given to others to make.

One of my friends, an engineer, complained to me about his PM who kept nagging him over trivial matters.

For example, his PM should have discussed with his own designer to solve such problems like whether the button is 20pixel or 25pixel at the top left, yet he reported every detail to him.

In fact, when I first worked as a PM, I also thought that all my team members should report any decisions to me, and I should organize them to make the decision. But in fact, there is no need for me to participate in every decision.

Some decisions are of importance, such as product development direction, target customers, the composition of MVP, and I will be actively involved in throughout the project.

However, some are not so important. Even if the decision made by the engineer and the designer was not what I want, and if I do not care so much about the decision itself or it doesn’t have much effect on the survival of the product, I think it will be more efficient to let engineers and designers communicate with each other and make the decision on their own.

For engineers and designers, there is nothing more annoying than the situation when they need PM to decide every detail while he or she is in a meeting and they cannot start to do their own jobs.

In fact, encouraging the rest of your team to make decisions is the only way in which you can work effectively as a PM for developing products.

Photo by Loic Djim on Unsplash.

If your product is developing fast and you want to keep pace with users’ needs and product upgrading, you will have no time to make all the decisions by yourself.

Instead, you should spend more time thinking about some decisions that must be made by you, such as the next step in your product development, and how to realize your vision more quickly, and so on.

Therefore, not only should you motivate your designer and engineer to exert their utmost, but you should also encourage other team members who have no determination and their own firm opinions to make bold decisions.