A few years ago, I read Principles by Ray Dalio, and I became enamored with the concept of codifying my own. So I started noting them down.

Pieced together over the past few years, this list reflects what I believe are some of the most important principles for product managers. I can’t take credit for inventing these. They are the summation of what I’ve learned through experience, coaching, and osmosis.

Product Management is a broad function, so I’ve tried to distill this down to the top 3-4 across 6 categories. This isn't exhaustive and it doesn't reflect the entire scope of the role, and I intend for this to be a "living" list that continues to develop over time.

Leading Your Team

1. Your team should be able to repeat the vision, goal, and value. If your team can’t, you probably haven’t communicated it enough or they aren’t aligned.

2. You should know what game you’re playing, and how you keep score. Credit to Adam Nash for this framing, see here for his fantastic article.

3. Your team should know the path to reach the goal. You need not detail execution to the point of false precision, but you and your team must understand the high-level milestones. If the milestones aren’t clear because of unknowns, these unknowns should be explicit.

Making Decisions

4. Decisions should be documented, explained, and widely communicated. It should feel like over-communication. If you don’t feel like you’re over-communicating, you probably aren’t communicating enough.

5. Decisions, and what you prioritize, need evidence. It’s your job to make sure this evidence exists. Inevitably, you will base some decisions on your judgment in place of data. Judgment-weighted decisions are okay, provided it’s explicitly communicated.

6. Stakeholders should be involved early and often, and alignment should be explicit. You’re looking for either a “yes, I agree with this decision, or a “no, I disagree, but I can commit to moving forward.” Escalate quickly and cleanly to resolve misalignments.

Communication Effectively

7. There is no such thing as over-communication. “Fluff” communication = enough communication.

8. You, the product manager, should have a uniquely high communication bar. Most functions have a primary “output” that isn’t communication: Designers design, engineers code, etc. For you, communication is a primary “output,” and it should be exceptional.

9. You have to own the narrative. When there’s a narrative vacuum, people will “creatively” fill in the blanks themselves. And you might not like what they have to say. Losing control of the narrative can be incredibly disruptive to your team’s ability to deliver.

Being an Effective Operator

10. Strong relationships enable strong collaboration. “Have strong relationships” sounds obvious, but the importance of relationships “up,” “down,” and “across” can’t be overstated. Without a solid mix of relationships and credibility, you won’t succeed.

11. Don’t be in the weeds managing every nuance of every project; save this for emergencies. Swim in your lane, and give your team space to do their job(s). Focus on:

12. Greatness is achieved in the agency of others. Product managers follow the “manager’s schedule.” Engineers & designers follow the “maker’s schedule.” Help your team be great “makers." Keep them unblocked; respond effectively to unfolding situations.

13. Your job is to create clarity: This is some sound advice that I got early on (thank you, Greg!). As a product manager, constantly think about how you can create clarity for your team: Clearer product requirements, resolving edge cases, answering questions, etc.

14. Be on top of your shit. Until I figure out how to better articulate this, I’ll say it ineloquently as “just be on it.” Know your business, your product, your team, be responsive, communicate relentlessly, make good decisions, own your results, get 1% better every day.

Managing Your Time

15. 80% of your role is discovering the right product & driving organizational alignment, and 20% is answering clarifying questions for the “makers” on your team. Product teams are in a constant cycle of discovery and delivery, which run in parallel:

16. Ensuring that you have time set aside for strategy and “focus” work is your responsibility. Getting sidetracked with 1,000 emails and Slack messages is natural, but it can’t be an excuse. Make sure you have time set aside for focused work.

Running Effective Meetings

17. Send agenda items beforehand. At the start of the meeting, collect input, and align on the goal. Meetings are expensive; when people are meeting, they often aren’t making. Own the meetings you run, and make sure they’re productive.

18. Use “DAD” to help structure and run meetings. Most meetings are a mix of Discussion, Actions, and Decisions: Document any decisions, communicate topics of discussion, and enumerate any action items.

19. “ABFU,” or Always Be Following Up (terrible, I know). Make sure you (or someone else) sends notes to all relevant stakeholders within ~24 hours. They don’t need to be perfect, but make sure they exist and that you communicate them.

20. Be deeply curious, and ask the “dumb” questions. Asking the right questions, even if they seem dumb, is a catalyst for creating clarity. Ask questions openly, in earnest, and let everyone else hear the answer. You probably weren’t the only one with that question.

Running Projects & Other

21. Every project includes a mix of Discovery, Design, and Delivery (and iteration); you should make sure these run in sequence. While we expect and desire some overlap, aspire not to make sweeping changes to design during delivery (as an example).

22. Be responsive; if you’re not, you might be holding things up. As the hub between every other function, and often the decision-maker, you have to keep the wheels greased for your team. One idea: ~2 hours for Slack, ~2 days for email (but much faster for anything urgent).