Product management is a multi-faceted discipline and it is exciting, enjoyable, and rewarding because of the stakes involved. The product Twitter is active on PM advice recently for the practices, its sphere of influence, and how we respond to certain situations as a product manager.
When John Cutler asked about the unknown unknown in the product managers on Twitter, I thought about it. I know many product managers who are from engineering and analysis background and their progression and growth into a PM role is a natural extension to how they worked on their respective core skills to build and ship products. On the way, they learnt the adjacent skills as well such as product metrics, discovery or marketing, sales and coaching, and organization behavior.
Thinking about John’s question, I could think of one unknown that product managers might now know that they do not know—it is how making products, running a business, and organization design are different skills. If a product manager can work on the intersection of these three, they are worth a bet for any technology team in the world.
Product: These are produce-centric skills which includes product strategy, vision and roadmapping, engineering and the entire product life cycle for shipping, and growth. Their core responsibility is product growth for the organization success and their success is measured against the product metrics.
Business: There is a business side of product management where product managers work on a product as if they are running a business. They are strong in product viability, sustainability, and growth for a variety of variables that live outside of the product plans—market, changing consumer sentiment, policy, competition, media, domain depth, talent pool, and so on. These product managers bring the right business acumen in the product strategy which may not always clearly show up in the operations.
Organization: Product management is also about getting into the organization behavior and finding ways and opportunities to redesign the organization for its structure, hierarchy, the higher-level positioning itself for why the org exists, and for the org-wide employee experience. Many non-technical companies such as those in finance, retail, real estate, logistics, security, or in finance are establishing a product management function to own or run the digital transformation in the organization. Such product managers work on the intersection of customers, market, business, and technology, and many of them make a career transition to program management for a systems view of the organization. In big corporations, the role is divided among multiple units for strategic, managerial, and functional aspects in product or program management. (Related reading: Spencer Stuart.)
The product managers who can work on the intersection of products, running a business, and organization design are very rare. In either case, inspiring product leaders need self-driven and learning teams to support the organization goals.