The Unique Thinking of Senior Product Managers: Balancing Execution and Strategic Vision

Aviral Vaid

Hatched by Aviral Vaid

Sep 30, 2023

4 min read


The Unique Thinking of Senior Product Managers: Balancing Execution and Strategic Vision


Getting a promotion to a senior product manager role involves a complex game that goes beyond just skills and achievements. Factors such as managerial support, team dynamics, and company politics also come into play. Once the problem is well-defined and the solution agreed upon, the focus shifts to executing the solution effectively. This article explores how senior product managers think differently and the strategies they employ to succeed in their roles.

Execution: Managing the Backlog and Shipping Quickly

When it comes to executing a solution, senior product managers prioritize managing the backlog effectively. This includes ensuring that tickets are clearly written, correctly prioritized, and efficiently worked on. Shipping the product quickly is crucial to gather feedback from users and reduce the risk of building the wrong thing. Incremental rollouts and A/B testing are methods often employed by senior PMs to validate their solutions before full implementation.

Prototype Usability Testing: Testing User Understanding

Prototype usability testing is a common practice among senior product managers. This testing evaluates whether users know how to use the solution effectively. However, it's important to note that this type of testing does not determine whether users want to use the solution. Senior PMs focus on improving user journeys, particularly in areas such as acquisition and activation. They critically evaluate solutions and problems to ensure they are addressing the right issues effectively.

Strategic Thinking: Understanding the Importance and Constraints

One aspect that sets senior product managers apart is their ability to understand the strategic importance of the problems they are solving. They ask questions such as which company objective the solution addresses and what user problems they are tackling. Additionally, they consider how to measure the outcome and impact of their solutions through outcome and output metrics. Senior PMs may also need to navigate difficult situations where stakeholders request product features without clear strategic value, requiring them to push back or choose their battles wisely.

Quantifying Impact: Determining Worthwhile Problems

Senior product managers utilize methods to quantify the impact of a problem. They consider factors such as the number of users impacted, the intensity of the problem for those users, and the value of the user segment. By assigning a dollar value to these factors, PMs can determine the worthiness of the problem and prioritize accordingly.

Understanding True Costs: Beyond Development Effort

While estimating the development cost of a feature is straightforward, senior PMs consider other types of costs. They ask why a problem needs to be solved now, assessing whether it is urgent or can be addressed later. Some problems require immediate attention, similar to a fire that needs to be extinguished promptly. Others may be more gradual, like a leaking roof that worsens over time. By understanding the true costs and urgency of a problem, PMs can make informed decisions about prioritization.

Jobs-to-be-Done (JTBD) Framework: Deep User Understanding

Senior product managers embrace the JTBD framework to gain a deeper understanding of their users' needs. By identifying what users are trying to accomplish with their product, they can uncover improvement opportunities. The four forces at play when a user considers switching to a new solution are push factors, pull factors, anxiety, and inertia. By mapping alternatives and assessing how well each product satisfies user needs, senior PMs can identify areas for innovation and improvement.

Expanding the Value Chain: Going Beyond the Product

Senior product managers think beyond the product itself and consider how they can expand the value chain. They map out the process that customers go through to accomplish their JTBD and explore opportunities to provide additional value before or after product usage. This holistic approach allows PMs to create a more comprehensive solution that meets the diverse needs of their users.

Actionable Advice:

  • 1. Prioritize effective backlog management and efficient shipping to gather feedback and reduce the risk of building the wrong solution.
  • 2. Deepen your strategic thinking by understanding the company objectives, user problems, and outcome metrics impacted by your solutions.
  • 3. Utilize methods such as quantifying impact and the JTBD framework to determine the worthiness of problems and uncover improvement opportunities.


Senior product managers possess a unique thinking style that balances execution with strategic vision. By effectively managing the backlog, shipping quickly, and continuously evaluating problems and solutions, they drive successful outcomes. Through methods like quantifying impact, understanding true costs, and employing the JTBD framework, they make informed decisions and prioritize effectively. By adopting these strategies and embracing a holistic approach to product management, aspiring senior PMs can enhance their thinking and excel in their roles.

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