Levelling up in Product Management
How to Make the Most of Your Learning Budget
Part 1: How to think about Learning as a PM
The Learning Imperative
In the ever-evolving realm of Product Management, constant learning is nothing short of essential. As this young discipline continues to blossom, mature and innovate, the best books, methodologies, and practices are still being developed and refined. This makes it imperative for those navigating the waters of product management to engage in perpetual learning to stay current with the latest insights and best practices.
Standing still is the fastest way of moving backwards in a rapidly changing world.
Luckily most companies recognise the importance of continuous learning and provide learning grants. This bottom-up choose-your-own-adventure approach provides a great amount of freedom and flexibility, but also puts the onus on individuals to take responsibility for their personal improvement. Which begs the question… Are you making the most of your learning grant?
1 . Assess Your Skills
Embarking on a learning journey requires a healthy dose of self-assessment and prioritisation, tailored to your individual aspirations. Start by taking stock of your learning needs, ponder the best framework to pinpoint those skill gaps that demand attention. There are plenty of product management competency frameworks out there. And don't shy away from seeking guidance—collaborate with your manager, solicit feedback from colleagues and stakeholders, and establish a baseline from which you can soar. By embracing this introspective process, you’re putting the foundation in place to choose a uniquely tailored learning path that will help you succeed in the dynamic world of Product Management.
If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there
2. Prioritise Your Learning Goals
Then, prioritise the skills that align with your personal and professional goals, setting clear learning objectives and arranging them in order of importance. You’ll get the most traction when your goals are aligned with the those of your team and the wider organisation
There are many ways of going forward, but only one way of standing still Frankin. D. Roosvelt
3. Know Your Options
As you embark on your learning voyage, it's essential to explore the vast ocean of resources at your disposal. Begin by pooling the collective wisdom of your team or discipline, building a veritable treasure trove of learning options. Embrace the myriad learning avenues available, from online courses and workshops to books and coaching, ensuring that you cast a wide net. At this point, don’t fix your budget as a constraint… just focus on finding the best resources out there. And don't forget to reflect on your learning style and preferences, ensuring the resources you choose align with the way you best absorb new knowledge.
4. Adopt a Growth Mindset
To succeed as a Product Manager, you must believe that you can learn anything. This role requires you to work at the intersection of different disciplines, which can sometimes feel overwhelming, like you’re constantly at the limit of your comprehension. It's essential to adopt a growth mindset and prioritise your own learning. Everything is learnable. I don't believe in talent, I believe in practice. This pragmatic belief leads to positive outcomes, even if it's not entirely true. With that pep talk behind us, let's explore how to make the most of your learning budget.
The beautiful thing about learning is that nobody can take it away from you
Part II: How to Make the Most of Your Learning Budget
By meticulously curating your learning options, and identifying your learning goals, you’re free to chart a course that is not only enriching but also tailor-made for your success in the Product Management realm.
Your primary challenge now becomes selecting the learning resources that are going to maximize your return on investment.
Top 10 Learning Budget Tips:
Use it or lose it. Most companies don’t rollover learning budgets, so it pays to know when yours will expire. Plan accordingly.
Max out your budget. Do you remember that analogy about prioritisation with the jar, rocks, pebbles and sand? Get the most important and expensive items in first, then see what else you can accommodate.
Leave some room for just-in-time learning. The best time to learn theory is right before you can put it into action.
Evaluate the return on investment of everything. A typical learning budget of £1000 could buy you a one day product management course or 50 books.
Make your budget go further. Work as a team, pool budget and negotiate group discounts. Keep an eye out for promotions.
Leverage free and affordable resources first. Open education, meetups, etc.
Do due diligence before committing to an expensive course. Is the instructor credible? Ask your peers if they found it valuable? Have they written a book? Would that be a better option?
Don’t chase certifications. Most product certifications aren’t valuable, and some have even become anti-signals in product (e.g. PRINCE2 Project Management).
Get out of your comfort zone. Training and learning is a low-stakes way to expose yourself to new things. Please don’t play it safe.
Make a business case to unlock more budget. The trick to unlocking more budget is to align your learning goals to those of your organisation.
Prioritise your progression. By assessing your skills, prioritising your learning goals, and following the tips above, you can make the most of your learning budget. Here's to a lifetime of learning!
Develop a passion for learning. If you do, you will never cease to grow Anthony J. D’Angelo
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