2 tools. 1 framework. Highly effective communication.
Communication is a PM’s bread and butter. In a survey by Lenny Rachitsky asking for the most essential PM skills while interviewing, communication took the #1 spot¹. This isn’t surprising: a PM’s core skill is influencing without authority, and you can’t do that without communicating well.
If there’s one tool that’s helped me become amazing at this skill, it’s the “So what” framework. The framework is so simple and yet so powerful, that I’ve started to think you can’t grow as a PM without it — in fact, it’s the one consistent piece of advice I’ve received from multiple mentors over my career. Here’s a quick guide to the framework, and where/ how to use it.
What’s the So What framework?
In essence, everything you write/ present should inherently answer the question “So what” for your audience.
It’s not novel, and is actually part of the 3-step Driscoll model of reflection, consisting of “What? So what? Now what?” as three stages of analyzing and learning from experiences². For me, the “So what” part is the crucial piece enabling a shared understanding of any problem, and when well implemented, it makes the “Now what” part seem obvious to the audience.
How do you use it?
A great place to start is in two everyday PM tasks:
#1 — Status updates
Regular status updates can be powerful when wielded well. They’re the fastest way to bring a large set of stakeholders along, especially on complex projects. They’re also the easiest way to start practicing “So what” communication:
- Start updates with a “Summary” or “Highlights” section. Anything in this section should focus on outcomes rather than what was done. Keep sentences in this section short, focused & targeted at your audience. Example: “Reached 1/3 milestones in delivering our payments platform: code complete for one-time transactions” as opposed to “One-time transactions code review complete & PR checked in to main”.