How To Be A Good Product Manager

Tips on product management and product marketing for product managers. By Jeff Lash

Develop and maintain a consistent product strategy

Posted on October 17, 2007 by Jeff Lash · 8 Comments

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If you want to be a bad product manager, keep changing your mind about the strategy and direction for your product. The market is dynamic and you need to be able to adapt rapidly. We’re living in an “agile” world and product strategies need to “be agile.” What works one week might not work the next. People who complain that the product direction is always changing are just stuck in the old way of doing business and need to learn the new ways of working. As a product manager, you need to be able to change your mind on a whim and have the whole team react.

If you want to be a good product manager, set the vision and direction for the product and make changes only as needed. Of course you need to be able to adapt it as the market changes, but this is something that should only be done sparingly and after careful consideration. Having clear and concrete objectives that are universally understood by all of the people involved in its creation and upkeep is essential to its success.

As a contributor to a project, there are few things more frustrating than the direction of the project constantly changing. In order for team members to be able to contribute to the success of the product, they need to have a clear understanding of the strategy and goals. If the strategy and goals are constantly shifting, there is no way for the product development team to be able to proactively suggest new ideas or ways to improve. Instead, energy is wasted following up on the fad of the week, people are afraid to do any work for fear of it being thrown out when the vision changes, and morale decreases as contributors question their value to the product.

Good products have distinctive competencies that are unique, valuable, and sustainable. A constantly shifting direction suggests that these criteria are not met and the product manager is trying to find a strategy that works. If this is the case, rather than making regular incremental changes, the product manager should take a step back from the problem and approach it from a higher level. Rather than trying something new every week or two, stop all new development and spend a few weeks or months researching, strategizing, articulating a new vision, and getting input from customers and internal stakeholders.

Agility and adaptability should not be substitutes for a clear, cohesive, and consistent focus. Product managers who can not settle on a strategy do themselves and their product a disservice and lose credibility with the product development team and product stakeholders. Good product managers set a clear vision and keep focus on it, tweaking and adapting the strategy proactively but only when necessary.

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How To Be A Good Product Manager features tips on product management and product marketing, written by Jeff Lash (@jefflash on Twitter), Vice President and Group Director for the Product Management and Portfolio Marketing research and advisory services at SiriusDecisions.

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8 responses so far ↓

  • Pawel Szopinski // Oct 18, 2007 at 6:32 am

    Just draw a clear spec according to initial requirements and stick to it!

  • Eric // Oct 18, 2007 at 10:58 am

    Another great post! I’m starting to wonder if product management isn’t hard work. This post seems to indicate that there is more to it than schmoozing with the customer and then telling the dummies in development what blue spinning widget to add.

  • Narendra Rao // Oct 22, 2007 at 3:29 am

    Understand the fundamentals & drivers at the time of conceptualizing or assessing any opportunity. That would be guiding force for road map. Until fundamentals change, there is no need to keep changing track.

    Most of road map changes is because initial homework is not done properly.

  • Roark Pollock // Oct 31, 2007 at 11:41 am

    I completely agree with your post about sticking to your well thought out product strategy.

    The very same approach must also be applied to portfolio management (or roadmap management). Develop a realistic, achievable plan and stick to it as much as possible. Otherwise you risk perpetual under achievement and decreasing employee morale.

  • Colin Stuart // Dec 4, 2007 at 6:40 pm

    Agreed. Being “agile” is the method by which the team fulfills on the goals of the project – it’s being able to alter your route up the mountain when you discover a crevasse in front of you, NOT changing mountains.

  • sri vikas // Dec 5, 2007 at 5:21 am

    i need to know how to write a world class MRD. can someone tell me where to look?

  • The Ever Changing Product » client k // Jan 23, 2008 at 4:02 am

    […] Why?  Because the project manager keeps changing direction.  […]

  • oliver // Feb 13, 2008 at 6:05 am

    so helpfull for gruduate4 students

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