Question Page

How do you think about your first 30/60/90 day goals when coming in as the Head of Product Management in a startup that didn't have product management before?

5 Answers
Adrianne Wang Martinson
Adrianne Wang Martinson
Airbnb Head of Product, China PlatformMay 12

The first product manager of a startup plays a crucial role as one of the foundational members. S/he not only needs to quickly lay the product strategy, create short and long term roadmaps, and build development processes, but also potentially extend responsibilities wherever help is needed, including user research, marketing or even as a QA engineer.

Here are initial 30/60/90 day goals to achieve this as the first product manager:

30 days: Be open minded to listen, observe and learn

  1. Understand the company and its business model in depth, including history, challenges, overarching strategy and short/long term goals
  2. Learn the products and features to get familiar with them
  3. Understand company culture and dynamics
  4. Get to know your team and key stakeholders, including engineering, design, product marketing, operations and sales
  5. Learn about any existing processes and gain context on them

60 days: Identify opportunities and form a strategic plan

  1. Identify the problem spaces of user pain points, business challenges, technical and operational needs
  2. Layout the user journey to identify product opportunities
  3. Prioritize the opportunities, define an MVP and build a roadmap
  4. Identify success metrics
  5. Got leadership and stakeholders’ buy in

90 days: Start execution and iterate

  1. Form and develop a plan to work on the detailed solutions
  2. Test out the solutions and iterate
  3. Build and iterate on the progress to have an efficient eng development cycle
  4. Potentially build a product management team
Ibrahim Bashir
Ibrahim Bashir
Amplitude Vice President, Product ManagementJuly 7

My # goal is to provide leverage around the strategy:

  • If we're having impact, accelerate and expand
  • If we're not having impact, get into that mode
  • ensure all work connects to top level outcomes
  • anything that derives from the above (alignment on strategy, hiring PMs, initiating / killing product bets, etc)
Mckenzie Lock
Mckenzie Lock
Netflix Director of ProductAugust 4

The most important thing you can do as a new head of product is to align with the founder/s and/or your manager on what your role is. Most people assume they did this in the interview process. Yet, misalignment on this question are the most common reasons heads of product fail. You want to know: 

  1. How will I be evaluated? “In 1 year, what evidence will tell you I’ve been successful?” Make sure they are specific. For example, if they say something like, “customers are happier,” follow up with: “what’s an example of something that would give you confidence customers are happy” This tells you what outcomes you’re being evaluated against.
  2. How much autonomy will I have for which product decisions? The best piece of advice I've received is to ask a new manager or founder, "What decisions do you want to make? What decisions do you want me to make but run by you first? What decisions do you want me to run with entirely?" This tells you how much autonomy you have on what.

Once you understand these things create a 6 month plan that incorporates a few things:

  1. Quick wins - ask your manager, their manager, your team, and your peers, “what do you need most from product management?” Use this to identify a few quick wins you can deliver to build trust.
  2. Start with the low context decisions - a lot of new Heads of Product make the mistake of trying to define a product strategy too early. This is often a mistake because such decisions require product context, organizational context & an intuition for the space. Instead start by making decisions you don’t need a lot of domain context to make - who to hire, how to uplevel the team, how to improve your product process, etc.
    For product decisions, start small by picking a few projects/or areas to go deep on before building out a larger strategy.

In all of this, setting expectations is your best friend. Once you’ve aligned with your manager on your plan, be sure to set expectations with the organization about what you’ll be focused on in what order.

Rodrigo Davies
Rodrigo Davies
Asana Director of Product Management, AIApril 4

This is obviously very context-specific, but here are some ideas:

30 days:

  • Understand the business strategy, what stakeholders want and levels of confidence

  • Understand the customer base, what's known and not known, and sit in on sales calls and UX research (if that's happening).

  • Understand how the company is shipping product today and where the problems are

  • Understand what data the company has and what else could be collected

  • Build high-trust relationships with your peers and leadership stakeholders

  • Understand what key team members hope for from product management and what they fear

  • Identify the first high-impact / low-medium effort project or priority that a product manager could accelerate/unblock/deliver, and do it. Model "what a PM does" on a small scale.

60 days:

  • Meet and build trust with the next layer of stakeholders – if this is e.g. a 20-person startup, this probably means you've talked with every person at the company.

  • Meet as many of the most important customers that you can. If there isn't a UX research cadence, lead some research to validate the company's top product priorities and bring cross-functional partners along for the ride.

  • Share what you've learned about where the org is, and the problems you're going to work on, with your stakeholders (and possibly the whole company). Get feedback and enlist collaborators to work with you.

90 days:

  • Share your recommendations for how the product strategy should evolve or change based on your investigations at 60 days.

  • Depending on what you found at 30/60 days, you might prioritize:

    • Establishing a cadence of customer research that you lead but other functions participate in regularly

    • Defining a product prioritization and development process to help the team ship faster and with higher quality

    • Regularly analyzing metrics and sharing learnings with the team, and using it to drive decisions

Aleks Bass
Aleks Bass
Typeform Chief Product OfficerMarch 19

Embarking on the journey as the inaugural Head of Product Management in a startup without a pre-existing product management framework is both a unique challenge and a significant opportunity. Your first 90 days are essential for laying a robust foundation, aligning the team around shared goals, and demonstrating early value. Let’s refine the plan for the first 60 days with your additional insights:

First 30 Days: Observation and Relationship Building

Objective: Focus on immersing yourself in the company culture, deeply understanding the current state of product offerings, and establishing key relationships.

  • Engage Broadly: Initiate conversations with individuals across functions to grasp their expectations and views on product management.

  • Product and Market Immersion: Become intimately familiar with the product and its position in the market to identify immediate opportunities and challenges.

  • Understand the Catalyst for Change: Seek to understand the motivations behind the investment in product management. What problems are you expected to solve? What does success look like?

  • Reserve Recommendations: While you might be tempted to suggest changes immediately, prioritize listening and understanding, using your past experiences as context rather than a direct template for action.

30-60 Days: Establishing Foundations and Aligning Expectations

Objective: Begin bridging knowledge gaps regarding product management practices within the organization, laying the groundwork for collaborative product development.

  • Educational Initiatives: Lead discussions or workshops to demystify the product development process, emphasizing the role of data and customer feedback.

  • Set the Stage for Product Management: Clearly articulate the role, expectations, processes, and approaches of product management within the organization. These conversations should precede discussions about specific product strategies, ensuring everyone understands the foundational elements of product management.

  • Manage Expectations for Impact: It's common for there to be misunderstandings about the immediate impact of product management. Set clear expectations about the timeline for seeing tangible results, underlining the importance of establishing processes and focus areas first. This preemptive setting of expectations is key to steering the experience and outcomes in the desired direction.

  • Proposal Development and Alignment: Integrate the challenges you’ve identified into a comprehensive proposal. Seek feedback to ensure alignment across the organization, making adjustments as needed to ensure broad support.

60-90 Days: Strategy Execution and Demonstrating Value

Objective: With a strong foundation in place and strategic alignment achieved, it's time to move forward with executing your plan and securing quick wins to build credibility.

  • Vision Crafting and Socialization: Develop a product vision that aligns with the company’s goals and market needs. Start sharing this vision to build support. Leverage the aligned on version to drive strategic execution of the roadmap.

  • Secure Early Wins: Focus on delivering immediate value through quick, impactful projects. These early successes serve to demonstrate the value of structured product management and build momentum.

  • Feedback Mechanisms: Establish channels for ongoing feedback from both internal stakeholders and customers to refine processes and ensure product development is on track.

  • Communicate Progress: Develop and implement a messaging strategy to communicate the changes made, their impact, and future plans. This strategy is crucial for managing expectations, highlighting successes, and reinforcing the value of product management to the organization.

Reflecting and Building On Success

As the first Head of Product Management, your initial 90 days are about more than laying groundwork; they’re about building trust, establishing a shared vision, and demonstrating the immediate value of your role. By focusing on education, expectation management, and strategic execution, you’ll not only address immediate challenges but also position product management as a central, value-driving function within the startup. This balanced approach ensures that as you move forward, the organization is aligned, engaged, and excited about the journey ahead.

Top Product Management Mentors
Sheila Hara
Sheila Hara
Barracuda Sr. Director, Product Management
Sirisha m
Sirisha m
Uber Director of Product
Natalia Baryshnikova
Natalia Baryshnikova
Atlassian Head of Product, Enterprise Agility
Deepak Mukunthu
Deepak Mukunthu
Salesforce Senior Director of Product, Generative AI Platform (Einstein GPT)
Pavan Kumar
Pavan Kumar
Gainsight Director, Product Management
Mike Arcuri
Mike Arcuri
Meta Director of Product - Horizon Worlds Platform
Abhiroop Basu
Abhiroop Basu
Square Product Manager
Hiral Shah
Hiral Shah
DocuSign Director of Product Management
Marvin Green
Marvin Green
Splunk Director, Product Management
Mckenzie Lock
Mckenzie Lock
Netflix Director of Product