3 Myths about Using the Product Decagon

I’m presenting the Product Decagon framework at the INDUSTRY Virtual Conference in a few days. If you don’t know about INDUSTRY, it’s one of the best product conferences of the year, and you can catch talks from top product minds including Marty Cagan, Rahul Vohra, Teresa Torres, and me. 😊

I’ve presented the Product Decagon framework to my teams and written about it before, but I wanted to take a fresh look at the content. In a conference setting, it’s important to clearly convey the framework, as well as anticipate and address questions that the audience may have. Luckily, I had the foresight to collect along the way the real-life questions that I’ve gotten from PMs that have used the framework, so it makes my work today to anticipate audience questions easy. I reviewed the themes behind these questions, and I realized that they represent limiting beliefs. Let’s confront those limiting beliefs today.

Photo by Greg Rosenke on Unsplash

Don’t stress if you’re not a PM today. You’re not alone. When I surveyed a group of PMs, I learned that almost all PMs started their careers in different functions. 54% came from engineering, 27% came from business, and the rest came from a mixed bag of other functions. You may not be a PM today, but I’ll bet that you’re closer than you think. When you use the Product Decagon framework to map out your goal of becoming a PM against where you are today, you will see the transferrable skills that you already possess and the areas that you need to develop. This can help you understand what the best types of PM jobs are for you to target and win your first PM job.

Does getting the question “where do you see yourself in five years?” make your head spin? To be honest, I don’t always know where I want my career to go either — some days it’s CEO and other days it’s CPO. When I surveyed a group of PMs, I was reassured to find that I was in similar company feeling torn between paths. 44% saw themselves as the leader of the product function and 37% saw themselves as a general manager, while 12% were happy being the subject matter expert in their domain and 7% envisioned their career taking a different path entirely.

To start to put a name on what your future aspiration is, I suggest pulling up LinkedIn Jobs and looking for any jobs that speak to you. Grab a set of 5–10 job postings for roles that you think you might want, then critically read through the job description, responsibilities, and skills to parse out the elemental decagon disciplines that they represent. When you map each of these job postings out on the Product Decagon, it will give you a picture of what your ideal future skill set is.

And keep in mind, planning for the future doesn’t have to be five years from now. It can be whatever timeframe is meaningful for you to work towards. So if it’s a job shift that you’re trying to make in the next 6 months, then fill your decagon with that.

You know how the PM role is all about prioritization? Apply that to your career development too. You can’t be good at everything and you don’t need to be. You need to be good at the things that matter for what you want to be when you grow up. Assessing where you want to be against where you are today will help you find those critical gaps and focus on building those muscles.

Now that you’re fired up to use the Product Decagon, here are a few resources that I’ve created for you.

  1. Read about the basics of the Product Decagon Framework.
  2. Download and fill out the Product Decagon Workbook. That’s right, I’m bringing back the Product Decagon Workbook as a giveaway to newsletter subscribers!
  3. Build a weekly practice of review and product reflection with The Productive Product Manager Journal.
  4. Subscribe to the Friday Flashes video series for more in-depth guidance on the product reflection questions each week.

If you’re up for sharing, I love seeing what your completed decagons look like, or hearing your questions or feedback. You can reach me through my Contact page. I look forward to hearing from you!

Lauren Chan Lee is a product leader who enjoys writing about the connections between product principles and everyday life. Learn more at: laurenchanlee.com