It’s the start of the year. For me, this is a time when I look back at what I have achieved over the past year and set my goals looking forward. And just like we would build strategy and roadmaps for our products, I believe it is important to build a strategy and roadmap for ourselves, as a product vision in development. Just like with a product, there are plenty of opportunities I want to explore, and a lot of gaps I want to close, but time is limited, as well as budget 😊 So, I need to make decisions and plan my investment carefully, which I believe is the case for many Product Managers out there. In this blog, I am sharing what are the first steps that I take to make these decisions, and in Part 2 of the post I will share how I distribute my investment across different opportunities for personal development.

Step 0. Do a retrospective of the past year

I am sure this is not a new concept to you, yet we tend to skip self-reflection and learning from the past. It doesn’t have to be a lengthy process. I just look back briefly at what I have achieved, and what I planned but didn’t accomplish over the past year. And I ask myself:

  • From the things I achieved last year, what am I really proud of?
  • From the things I didn’t manage to achieve, what do I still want to see happening this year?

Then I look for the success factors and the barriers that I met along the way. I usually write things down, so that I can come back and review them again later when I set my goals.

Hint: I use online tools, such as this one, to capture my thoughts.

Step 1. Set mid-term focus and define my yearly goals

If you are curious and opportunistic by nature (like I am), setting focus might be a challenging task. I love learning new stuff and experimenting with different things, which might be great in certain situations, but is also very distracting from my core activities. The problem is that eventually, I waste too much resources in too many directions, without major achievements in any area, and my self-esteem suffers. By setting my goals for the year, I am also able to define the 80% investment I want to put in what is most important for me to achieve. And I try to leave 20% free for my curiosity to thrive as well. 😊

In terms of goal-setting process, I usually ask myself:

  • What are the achievements that will make me really proud at the end of this year?
  • Why would this particular achievement matter in 3 years from now?

At this point, I might need to do a triage of my goals. If I don’t see them as important in the mid-term, I take them out.

Once I have answered these questions, I have reviewed my mid-term strategy and my focus for the year, and I can move to the next step to build my development plan.

Step 2. Identify my development focus points

Next, I want to look at the skills and competences that I need to achieve my goals. For this purpose I love to use a very simple tool, called the Coaching Wheel. It is very easy to use and very powerful in terms of visualization and decision-making support. Here is how I use it:

  • First, I identify skills and competencies that are important for my aspirations. These might be soft or hard skills, such as Communication Skills, or SaaS Pricing and Building Business Cases.
  • I put each skill into a slice of the wheel, as in my example here. Hint: you can add as many slices to the wheel as you want, but if you go above 12, you might need to prioritize and leave some of them out.
  • Once I am done with brainstorming, I assess my current level of expertise in each skill on a scale of 0 to 10 (0 is the center of the wheel). For example, in Communication I might have quite some skills, still see some potential to develop, therefore I assess myself with 7.
  • Then I do the same, this time assessing my desired level of expertise in each area. For communication, for example, I  might want to go two points higher, to 9. Hint: Define what a 9 would mean to you, what would you be able to do (better) when you move to 9. 

Once I have done that, I have a nice overview on the gaps, and I can decide where I want to focus and which ones will have the biggest impact on my success.

I will explore some ideas around that in Part 2 of the blog post.

3 Steps to Build Your Personal Development Roadmap as a Product Manager (part 1)