6 things great product managers do with downtime

Krishnan Raghupathi
7 min readSep 7, 2020

I learnt it’s not what they do, but how they do it.

Photo by Katie Moum on Unsplash

Life as a PM is mostly an orchestra of frenzy. There’s always the next spec to create, status reports to send, open issues to chase down, issues to clarify, research to synthesize, data to collate….you get the idea. If this sounds frantic, it is. This sort of orchestrated chaos is actually one of my favourite aspects of the job.

And yet, once in a blue moon (aka August), time grounds to a standstill. Key partners from whom you need inputs are blissfully off on vacation. The engineers are heads down refactoring and rearchitecting, muttering under their breath about how they got persuaded to take on all this technical debt and giving you long sideways glances. Yup. It’s still happening even if you’re remote and can’t see it 😀.

I’ve been really lucky to observe and learn from how some of the best PM’s I’ve worked with used their moments of downtime profitably. What they did:

  1. Plunge into the data.
  2. Go customer insight hunting.
  3. Scrutinize competitor’s products.
  4. Find allies for the team.
  5. Seek moments to delight.
  6. Celebrate the team

This is a fairly obvious list of what all PM’s should be doing. The difference between good and great PM’s is not in what they do, but in how they do it.

#1 Plunge into the data: enabling questions

Photo by Lukas Blazek on Unsplash

Very early in my career, a PM Lead set up a meeting for all the PM’s in the division. One of the features our team was responsible (renewing a subscription) for had just launched, and the PM for the feature took 15 minutes to showcase a dashboard of how the feature was doing since launch, how many users came in, how long it took them to renew, and where they tripped up.

The PM lead thanked him, and then did something I’ll always remember.

He said “OK, let’s go around the table. Everyone, come up with one or two questions you want to ask about the data”.

Krishnan Raghupathi

Product Manager, Meta. Notes on building products, life in large organizations, science fiction and travel. All opinions are my own.