You probably heard this any now and then “How do I know that this person is a good product manager?”.
It’s a simple question with many different answers, some going as long as a short novel.
Here’s my rule you can use to quickly give a thumb up or down:
For any product manager, the most important product she manages is her person.
Like any product you’d judge you look things like:
- UI – the way she presents herself (dress, walk, talk,…)
- UX – is there some structure behind her talking, is it going deep enough because she looked at the problem from different angles?
- Market fit – does she have all the traits a PM should have? If not, do you see the potential to grow the missing ones?
- Quality & customer satisfaction – what’s her track record? What amazing things you can find in her past? What former colleagues have to say about? What customer have to say about her products?
- Competition – how does she play with the rest of the product team? Or with other PMs?
- Roadmap – what’s her destination? Why is she doing PM now? To get where and why?
You’d be surprised how easy is to get to an answer if you approach a prospective hire from this angle.
Why would you trust the future of your product to someone who’s not able to articulate why she is a PM and where she wants to be 5 years from now?
It is that simple: if the person doesn’t treat herself as the most important product then she is not a great PM. And it is OK; because maybe for your product you don’t need a great PM :)
Of all the different things/traits any great app has, smart defaults are arguably among the easiest to get them right and to implement. Now, remember that great apps are great because they do a number of things very well; they are not just a one-trick pony.
So you want to make a great product? Good, because this is exactly what every customer out there looks and hopes for when he tries your product.
“How to make a good product?” – I sense that it’s on your mind right now. Well, here is something all great products have in common:
A great product always recovers gracefully after a crash.
If you work in the software industry and you wonder what you should improve in order to get better I’d suggest to start with communication, especially written communication*. It doesn’t matter what you do – engineering, product/project management, or marketing – if you don’t invest in communication skills there will be little or no career growth**.
I can sense your first question: “how do you improve?”. Easy – you work on the structure, brevity, and style. But how exactly do you do this?
Pursuing perfection is one heck of an engine to push yourself and achieve more. Some say that it is a mistake because you set up yourself for failure. After all perfection is something that you can’t achieve.
Maybe this is true. I mean not the fact that is a set up for failure. It’s true in that you can only achieve moments of perfection. Any now and then you create the perfect interface, perfect strategy, perfect code, perfect presentation, and so forth. But it’s kind of impossible to maintain the bar and keep delivering only perfection afterwards.
There is also a dark side – when you play so much with the pieces you have in the search of the perfect set up and you end up choosing the wrong combination. If you weren’t looking for perfection you’d have gone with a better choice.
One quick example that comes to my mind is the Bucharest UX Conference 2015 – the first UX conference in Romania. The conference was a hit by any measure. But there was one thing that was clearly not up to the rest of the conference – the MC guy.
Knowing the people behind the conference I know they chose that guy because they wanted the best conference. But it backfired. I think they have at least one guy in their team who would have done a much better job.
But this is part of going after perfection. Sometimes works. Sometimes not.
Today was my last day at Bitdefender. They say that when visiting faraway places you take something with you back home. But you also leave a piece of you there. I think that the same is true when leaving a company.
For the past year Bitdefender has been my home, and in terms of product management my very first home. Looking back I think that I couldn’t have chosen wiser: new company, new people, and new products. This setup helped me not only to validate that product management is what I want to do for the foreseeable future but also helped me to grow. A lot.
Working in a team to achieve a common goal is something that most of us are looking for and we get lots of energy and purpose out of it. But sometimes things are the other way around. And here comes the elastic effect*: it describes the relative distance between each team’s member. As a general rule more stretched the elastic is, more chances are that there are some problems related to the member-team-goal dynamic.
How does it work? When all members of a team pull in the same direction there is no tension in the elastic. The elastic starts to stretch and becomes thinner and thinner when team members pull in different directions and/or with different intensity.
The more I find about what motivates people the less I feel that I understand the topic. And the thing is that when you work in the software industry you kinda have to dig in into this topic. Or at least this is what so many smart people write and talk about when discussing the prerequisite of successful teams and individuals.
Lately, I have the feeling that I understand two things related to this topic: the deeper reasons that motivates us to do something and two silent killers of motivation.
If you’ve been in the software business for some time you may have heard things along these lines:
– We need a senior* developer/QA/manager for this project otherwise we are ******
– A senior developer’s output is 4-10 times better than a newbie’s
– We don’t have enough seniors on this team; we need more
So what traits make these people so valuable to teams/managers/organisations? Is it the deep domain knowledge? Is it the professional and life experience? Is it the day in, day out high quality work they perform? Is it the higher productivity?