This article is a reprint from a recent edition of Product Design and Development
Passion has been touted as an absolute requirement for product managers. Well-intentioned – Possibly. Misguided – Definitely.
“Passion: It’s been mentioned before, but it warrants further mention: product managers need to love their product in the kind of way that makes others want to love the product. Not only that, but they need genuinely care about the concerns of the product’s users. If they don’t understand your customers, they’re not going to be your best product manager.”
The quote above is from a recent post/article from a well-known product management consultant who states, among many others, that a product manager must be passionate about the product and to transfer this passion and enthusiasm to others that can affect the business (sales, customer service, customers, maybe even the janitor). The belief is that this is the only way for a product to be successful.
I view this as new-age gobbledygook that ranks up (or down) there with magic crystals and fire-walking. If product managers should be passionate about anything it should be about RESULTS (revenue, gross margin, market share,…) and not about a product. Passion tends to blind humans to the limitations of their product. The PM is spouting-off, to anyone unfortunate enough to be within earshot, about how great the product is while all of the salesman and customers know of its shortcomings. This diminishes the credibility of the PM and the product in their eyes. I know because I’ve seen it happen multiple times.
The solution to this is to arm your sales team (and other interested parties) with the facts of the product’s attributes and its detracting characteristics. Tell them how they can will the majority of the opportunities; educate them on how well the system as a whole works. Be pragmatic about it and know that a good sales force will win more than they lose if well-informed and provided with the support that product managers are best at providing – namely broad-spectrum support from technical minutiae to application-specific topics to delivery schedules and large project package “deals.”
Results – not passion – pay the bills. Get that right, and you will succeed. Get it wrong, and you still may succeed but you will look foolish in the process.
Copyright 2015 Doug Ringer
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Product strategy, sometimes called the ‘roadmap’ is the simply the goal of the product line for the next one to three years. Any longer than three years is typically folly due to the fast changing environment in which most industries exist. The product manager is responsible for the strategy of her product line since she retains the expertise of the product and its associated markets. She is the one who fields daily calls from customers and sales personnel, and is closest to the technology, aside from the R&D department.
The executive level employ these experts, product managers in this case, to know the details, develop product roadmaps, and then execute on the individual plans that will cause the results. The executive level is to manage the higher level functions of the business, guide it through the economy, and generally make resources available to the experts to execute on the functional areas of the business. Involving executives in the minute details of a product line (or any department) is counterproductive in that the product manager is sidelined while explaining the product line to the executives, the executives are sidelined while learning these details, and the business suffers because those responsible for running these key areas are distracted.
The following shows how the responsibilities and associated authority should best be divided.
Product managers are the product and market experts. They know more about the overall product, market, and plans than anyone else in the company. They should be orchestrating and consulted on all issues dealing with their product and related markets. They are the masters of their realm because they:
- are close to the customers and the products
- know the technology better than all but the R&D department
- know the competitive landscape
- know the suppliers and the supply chain
- are the subject matter experts
The executive level is the guiding force of the company. They are responsible for creating or should be consulted on the following:
- creation and management of corporate strategy
- business model topics
- channel strategy issues
- organizational structure to support organization’s goals
These groups of individuals have very different and essential roles in the firm. Neither can succeed without the other, and neither group is equipped to conduct the other’s role. Most importantly, problems arise when these groups attempt to do the other’s job.
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