If you want to be a bad product manager, reject any notion of Agile product development. It’s probably just a ploy by bad engineering groups to take the blame off of them when they can’t finish everything you’ve requested. You’ve spent a lot of time perfecting your requirements documents and then handing them to development. The reason why things go wrong is because they can’t do their job, not because you can’t do yours.
If you want to be a good product manager, keep an open mind about Agile methods in product development. “Agile” is really an umbrella term for a variety of different methods of product development and project management. The Agile Manifesto describes what Agile proponents value:
Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
Working software over comprehensive documentation
Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
Responding to change over following a plan
That is, while there is value in the items on
the right, we value the items on the left more.
Many companies are turning to Agile methods to help them be more responsive to changes in the market. It also can create better working relationships among all the team members, increase shared accountability, keep projects focused on customer and market needs, and potentially improve time to market.
Some product managers are afraid of doing Agile product management and development. The reasons are varied — it could be lack of knowledge about Agile, lack of interest in working closely with development, lack of ability to appropriately define “requirements,” or fear of what they believe Agile is because of misinformation about what Agile is.
Product managers need to educate themselves about Agile before making a judgment about its appropriateness. Agile processes work for some situations and not for others. The decision to adopt an Agile approach is not one that should be made by a product manager or engineering manager without input from others. Success with Agile is as much about how it is implemented as it is about Agile itself.
As a product manager, you should keep an open mind about Agile product management. Educate yourself. Read articles and books about Agile. Talk with others who have had success (and problems) with Agile. Try it out for yourself on a pilot project. If you decide that Agile is not right for you, fine, as long as you make sure that the decision is made based on practical reasons and not misinformation, misunderstanding, or fear.
Note: There are many resources on Agile product management; here are just a selected few. Please post any other recommended resources in the comments.
- Extreme Product Management: How to deliver products people want to buy in an agile development environment (PDF)
- Agile Methodologies: How Product Management’s role is shifting
- Growing Agile
- Tyner Blain: Various posts on Agile
- Ethniosys: Agile Product Management Coaching