FREE Template: 4x4 Competency Assessment of PMs

Let me share a process and template that I have been using for many years to coach my team members and help them grow. I hope it can give some of you a headstart on your way to becoming a better leader. Hence, I am providing it here as a FREE resource as an extension to what we described already in the chapter about Competency Assessment. You can download at the bottom of this page. To help you get started, let me explain how to use the tool:

Preparing the Ground

  1. Review the Competencies tab of the attached spreadsheet.
  2. Specifically, adjust role levels. For most StartUps and ScaleUps 3 levels will be sufficient but when you are operating in a larger organization, then add columns for Principal Product Managers or whatever might be needed.
    • Important: Do not add leadership roles here. The very moment someone becomes Head of Product, Director of Product, VP, or even CPO, their job changes dramatically. The aspects mentioned here won’t be relevant anymore. If you need a similar template for product leaders, create a separate one — or reach out to me, I might have something to share with you.
  3. Likewise, review the rows expressing the different areas and aspects in each area. These should be fairly generic but it might well be that some adjustments are needed.
    • Be careful not to massively expand the framework. I have decided to apply a 4×4 scheme because this will also give an insightful visualization later on (see below). When you are using hundreds of dimensions, people will not see the forest for the trees.
  4. Review the cell content, so describe what your expectation is per level and per aspect. What I have provided, is again fairly generic but might need adjustments.
  5. Change to the Assessment tab and adjust the columns for the different levels so that they are consistent with what you have created in step (2). In the template attached, I stick to the 3 levels of Associated PM / PM / Senior PM.
  6. Finally, for each level and every competency, enter which level you expect. The template uses a scale from 0 = Cannot do at all to 9 = Can guide others. Entering or adjusting that data will adjust the dashed lines in the radar plot.
    • Again, adjust ratings as per your needs. For example, the required level in terms of technical skills, software architecture, or even code is considered low in the template but might be much higher in domains where the technical expertise of Product Managers is mandated.
    • The black Max column is only here for technical reasons so that the radar plot nicely shows in this normalized fashion. Just ignore that.
    • Also, the order of rows in the 2nd sheet is somewhat different from the initial one in order to optimize the layout of the radar plot. Ignore that, too. But, hence, color coding helps.

Now you are ready to use the tool in your quarterly performance reviews.

Running an Assessment

With the above preparation, you are good to go and use the tool in performance reviews:

Before the Performance Review Meeting

  1. When you are using the tool for the first time, explain it to your team.
  2. Share a blank sheet, so without any real assessment data in the blue column, with the team member and have them fill in. How do they believe they are doing? Where do they see their strengths and weaknesses?
  3. In parallel, you do the same: How do you, as the leader, see strengths and weaknesses of them?
  4. Make sure there is enough quality time for both, the self-assessment by the team member and your assessment of them. Don’t rush into it and do not just complete it 10 minutes before the meeting.

During the Performance Review Meeting

  1. Share both versions of the assessment, either by screen sharing or actually sending files or whatever might work for you.
  2. Assess the status quo by comparing your assessments line by line. Where do you see a major discrepancy, where do you disagree? If it’s just nuances — fine. But if there is a larger mismatch, then use it as a trigger to drill deeper so that both parties understand the assessment. Maybe the team member believes she does very well working with the agile team but you observe a lot of problems? Or the other way around, she is doing an awesome job around communication but is struggling with imposter syndrome?
    • It’s crucial to discuss these aspects in detail and openly. Do not slavishly stick to the template, but use it to structure the conversation.
  3. Try to reach an agreement, line by line. But if in doubt: You are the boss. It is your assessment of their capabilities. You don’t have to decide everything unanimously, but as a manager, you must be able to justify your decisions.
  4. When done, review the resulting radar plot. In the provided template, it’s the solid blue line. Looking at this will give a very good visual impression of where your team member’s strengths and weaknesses are. In particular, you can compare easily against the dashed lines indicating the required skills for the different levels.
  5. Specifically, note how the radar plot groups adjacent topics into quadrants of the chart, e.g. everything about domain and tool expertise is “northwest” whereas the “southeast” is about delivery aspects.
  6. From that view, derive goals and action items for the coming period. The sample data attached shows that the team member is very advanced in the northwest domain aspects but falling behind in the northeast discovery area. It directly translates to a statement such as: “You are doing very well as a Product Manager and even getting closer to a Senior role. However, you need to focus on that gap around discovery activities.” Now you have something to work on!
  7. Do not stop here but be specific and supportive:
    • Specific by defining SMART goals: How will you measure an improvement in that aspect? Maybe they have adapted certain tools or otherwise showed their learnings?
    • Supportive by offering help on how to get there: Which resources can help the team member? Which books to read, which training to attend, how can you, as the leader, help?
  8. Do not only agree on all of the above but write it down. Writing provides clarity. Writing ensures you will remember when you meet next time. Writing ensures a well-structured handover in case of organizational changes.

After the Performance Review Meeting

Touch upon the objectives you agreed on during the performance review when running your weekly 1:1s. I wouldn’t go deep, that’s not the goal of a weekly meeting. But make sure the team member pays attention, reserves quality time to address these aspects, and there are no roadblocks. You want to avoid a situation where you re-meet after a longer cadence only to hear that no progress was made because of whatever silly reason. Also actively observe their work and remind them when you don’t notice any change or activity toward the agreed-upon goals. Speaking of cadence: We are working in fast-paced environments, specifically in the tech world. An annual performance review will by far not be enough. Instead, I recommend quarterly performance reviews or a cadence that somehow fits the business schedule of your company. When you have major product updates every four months, for example, that might be a great cadence to follow.

Pro Tip

Adding a new sheet per cadence will allow you to “travel back in time” and see how the team member improved their skills over time. 


The attached template has evolved from many years in leadership, initially in Engineering and for 15+ years in Product Management. Of course, I needed to adapt the framework a bit when changing roles and companies — but the overall structure remained fairly stable. I have used it successfully to help my teams grow. I hope you can benefit from it, too. Hence, I am providing it here as a FREE resource.

PS: Sorry to all fans of Google. There’s probably an easy way to translate the attached into a Google Sheet – but I am more familiar with MS Office. Hence the Excel.

PPS: I am providing the attached Microsoft Excel spreadsheet “as is”, without warranty of any kind, express or implied.