What is a Product Manager? A simple answer

Brézil [Black flag bearer.] from NYPL collection (public domain)
Vinkhuijzen collection of military uniforms, NYPL

There is no such thing as a new idea

Common myths

  1. Product management is an idea that a company can organize around (being “product-centric”)
  2. Each product is an idea that a team can organize around.

Product-centric: Product management as a way to organize a company

  • Shared value: We build standardized products, not custom solutions
  • Continuous improvement: We carry out cycles of develop, ship, evaluate
  • User-centric: We listen to our customers to understand how to improve our products
  • And so on
  • Product Management will own the vision and roadmap
  • Product Management will prioritize the product development work
  • Product Management will not define the technical solutions
  • And so forth

A product as a way to organize a team

  • Communication is everything: This is the most important part of the product management job. It is with communication that you share the idea of the product and enable everyone to rally around it. If you can’t effectively convey to people what the product is, they can’t build it, sell it or support it.
  • So: Ensure that everyone knows and understands the core product idea.
  • Many suggestions, one solution: Your job isn’t to bring all the solutions. You want your entire team to contribute to the idea of the product, to build a powerful product and based on a shared idea. Your job is to enable that by clearly defining the problem and the objective and enabling the experts on your team to contribute their best.
  • So: Continuously marshall the team’s thinking into a single coherent product idea.
  • Enable product-led growth: People rally to an idea when it speaks to them. Not just the team: a great product is one that users will fight for. Your team builds the product, but real success is when the idea of your product empowers a client or an industry.
  • So: Enable your users to spread your product idea for you.
  • Ensure your developers understand your users: You need alignment around the idea of your product. Think of it like building a solar concentrator. If your engineers have one idea of your product, and your users another, you’ll lack the focused energy that you need.
  • So: Align your engineers around your users’ idea of the product.
  • Test early and often: Don’t wed yourself to specific details of the product idea. Focus on the problem you want to solve, not the solution you have in mind. You can continuously refine the details of what you’re building without losing the core idea of the product.
  • So: Be stubborn on the vision and flexible on the details.
  • Bring the donuts: Actually, this isn’t about the product at all, it’s about the team. Great products are built by great teams, and great teams are built by great attitudes. When you are looking to do whatever needs to be done, you bring that attitude into the team.
  • So: Help build the team’s idea of itself as a great team. (See what we did there?)

The first principle of product management




VP Product @ Shift Technology

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Marcel Gordon

Marcel Gordon

VP Product @ Shift Technology

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