Product management is about flexibility

If you want to be a bad product manager, resist change. You put lots of effort into everything you do, and it wouldn’t make sense to go back and revise it. You promised that you would your product launched by a certain date, and you need to hit that date no matter what. You spent a lot of time on your product roadmap, and you don’t want to waste time and effort revising it. You’ve got to be consistent and focused and get done what you said you would get done.

If you want to be a good product manager, be prepared for and adaptable to change. If you are looking for a “set it and forget it” career, product management is not for you.

Product managers need to be flexible and adaptable, ready to change at any time. Release dates need to shift depending on internal and external factors. Product roll-out strategies may need to change based on market conditions. Corporate strategies and priorities often dictate a different direction for your product than maybe you originally thought.

The more tied to technology your product is, the more quickly and dramatically it will change. As an example, compare web-based products to laundry detergent. Yes, laundry detergent has changed a bit in the past 10 years. Energy-efficient front load machines have created the need for slightly different formulas. Club stores like Sam’s and Costco and the increased distribution power of Wal Mart have changed distribution and packaging decisions. Despite these changes, though, the product is still essentially the same.

Web-based products, however, have changed dramatically since 1997. The number of households with computers, average Internet connection speeds, amount of time spent online, and overall familiarity with technology is much different now than ten years ago. The market for web-based products has undergone a radical shift and will likely continue to morph even more over the next 10 years.

Still, regardless of the type of product you manage, technology, market, and society changes are necessary to understand, monitor, and be comfortable with change. This is not to say that everything can change on a dime. Strategic priorities should not be different every week, but they could be different from one year to the next. A challenge of product management is to provide a vision, strategy, and focus, while at the same time understanding when those should change based on new market conditions.