My product manager just left - what do I do?

So your product manager—the one who holds everything together and keeps your entire team running on task—just left the company. What do you do?

First, don’t panic. (Or maybe panic just a little.) Take some deep breaths. Maybe spend a few minutes with a meditation app.

Next, once you’ve cleared your head, it’s time to rally the troops and get organized.

Start by having everyone involved in the product (engineering, design, marketing, sales, ops, customer success) send you the materials and notes they have. Note anything that’s been done, still needs to be done, or has an unclear status. Ideally, all of this should already be stored in a project management dashboard so that you can clearly visualize progress on all tasks and have a good sense of where things stand. If not, it’s a good opportunity to set one up, which will enable team members to project-manage their own steps in the process.

Even if a project management system is already in place, things are rarely clear-cut: You’re likely to find that important project details have bled over into emails, Slack chats, and other channels. Make it your mission to track down all of the information that your PM had stored in her head, and then take inventory of what’s still missing that would enable your team to work more effectively to see the project through to completion.

Next, use a knowledge sharing tool to ask technical questions for your development team to answer around troubleshooting and provide additional context to the team. You can also set up additional questions and paste in the answers that you have available from outside sources, such as technical documentation, Slack, email threads, and other locations. 

By creating a shared knowledge base, you can future-proof your product management team by ensuring that all relevant context and technical information is available from a single source of truth. Centralize all of your product-related information instead of separating it into siloed folders and structures. After your product launch, archive all relevant materials in one easily searchable location, and identify non-negotiable documentation for every release.  

Finally, even though you’ll likely be eager to hire another PM ASAP, make sure that you’ve built a replicable structure for storing and sharing information that your team will be able to rely on. Don’t let one person become essential to the product—create outlets where information can be shared and discussed collaboratively team-wide, and you’ll be able to keep things moving no matter what form your team might take.

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