Jenny Cox
February 10, 2022

What undermines the foundation of good product management?

Product does sit in the middle of most functions in a technology company, but it's not product management’s job to keep everyone happy.

What kind of product manager do I aspire to be? Is this the same or different from the product manager I am today? Is anything keeping me from my full potential?

These are questions we ask ourselves all the time and that we've seen product managers at every company we've worked for or with asking themselves. Here are three expectations that undermine the foundation of good product management and diminish the potential of any strong and aspiring PM.

Consensus management

While aggregating inputs to make people feel included might help with the buy-in process down the line, not every idea is a good idea. Bad ideas should be assessed and communicated in an objective way relative to the overall business and product. We don't believe in consensus-driven roadmaps. People feel good about compromise, but when the feature or set of features doesn't get traction or fails to scale because it does not meet customer needs, what next? Better to rip the bandaid off from the jump. Don't build bad ideas - and have a system for sussing them out upstream before prioritization and development.

Shipping as the end goal

Building things quickly is great, but making sure you're building the right things first is most important. You should know what to expect with these features and feature sets regarding customer adoption and market differentiation. We don't believe in "always be shipping" for its own sake. Ship fast if you know what direction you're running in and what success looks like. Otherwise, you are a feature factory - but there's more. Your ability to ship fast *is* a massive asset and should not be overlooked. A minor course correction in terms of assessing and deciding what to build - grounded in value, competition, and feasibility - can set you, your company, and your product sailing or skyrocketing as the case may be.

Friendly people herder

Flat orgs and diplomacy are prized in product management and product-driven companies. Don't get it twisted, though, if you own a product, your job is to make that product succeed through customer adoption and market penetration balanced with time to market and resourcing cost. We don't believe product managers are shepherds. Product managers are decision-makers and doers. The buck stops with you. You need to make tough calls and know WHY and stand behind your WHY until you learn it was the wrong call by executing. Then you need to do better next time. It's called iteration, and it must be grounded in a consistent, robust evaluation methodology and a fair shot at executing, not endless conversations. Be friendly but be firm and move forward.

Product does sit in the middle of most functions in a technology company, but it's not product management’s job to keep everyone happy. We’re building products to help people think, assess, decide, communicate, and build.