28/30: What Product Managers Are Not

For a long time, product management was an undefined discipline based on a patchwork of experiences, techniques, methods, and approaches. A lot of folks in and out of tech are still confused about what it is we actually do. So what are product managers really?

Let’s start with what product managers are not…

  • Product managers are not backlog groomers. While managing a product backlog is within the job description for product managers, that’s not the only thing we are tasked with. In reality, there are many ways in which to handle product development. The classical backlog is merely one approach. There are product managers out there who don’t have backlogs at all. Shocking, I know!

  • Product managers are not project managers. Product development is the continuous exercise of many discrete projects — product and project management are siblings. But in product management we are managing the same domain over and over, and continuously evolving a product. And we bear the responsibility and accountability for the product’s success fully.

  • Product managers are not executors of management or sales requests. What we are instead is partners who champion customer needs and develop solutions that address them in a way that sustains the business. The best way we can do that is by collaboration and a laser-eye focus on solving the needs of many customers, not by building out feature requests without any back and forth or for a single customer. Well, unless we're talking Enterprise...

Here’s a few things product managers are…

  • Product managers are integrators that operate in the area in between everyone else. Product managers work with everyone in and out of the business to devise the best ways to address customer needs and pain points in a way that propels the business and ensures its growth. By virtue of that, we are extremely collaborative and communicative.

  • Product management is a business function. Our primary goal is to grow the business by solving customer problems. We are not scrum masters, delivery managers, feature jockeys, or unquestioning executors of top-down instructions.

  • Product managers are jacks-of-many-trades. We are often generalists and can approach many domains with a problem-solving mindset. Sometimes we specialize in certain areas more than others, and the future certainly seems to be taking us into all kinds of product manager types, but largely you can usually throw us into the deep end of any domain, and the same set of practices and approaches can help us find our way out.

We are curious cats who ask too many questions.

There’s many things we are, but above all, we are your partners in crime. Work with us to answer the “why” behind every idea, request, and instruction. Your customers and your business will both thank you for it.

And that means you have to, too. But that’s what makes it all so fun in the first place!


29/30: Saying "No" Constructively