On Product Management

Most of the Product Managers I have worked with are focused on the wrong things. There’s usually an expectation that they are also Project Managers. So they spend their time organising most Scrum ceremonies. Things like dailies, sprint planning and retrospectives are facilitated by them. Alongside this, they also have sync-up meetings with other teams and stakeholders. This all translates into 50-60% of their time not spent doing product, or product management. They are at most managing expectations. There’s a false idea that it’s their responsibility - it isn’t. Ceremonies, if they exist, should be handled by the engineers. There’s no intrinsic reason for it to be lead by the Product Manager.

These are the things they should focus on:

  1. Knowing intimately the problem domain and their users.
  2. Know the technical capabilities of their team.
  3. Synthesise user problems and frustrations into documents that anyone can read and think about.
  4. Define success metrics and what it means for something to be done.
  5. Explore new markets and look for opportunities that are aligned with the business.
  6. Identify synergies with other verticals across the company.
  7. Balance product and technical work.
  8. Champion their team’s work.

I want to draw attention to the 3rd point. Because there’s a tendency of Product Managers to bring solutions to engineers to implement. This is wrong. As an engineer you shouldn’t accept this. Everyone in the team needs to contribute to the solution.

I also want to mention the following. A Product Manager that doesn’t produce specs, documents, or something that the team can read and think about, is not doing their job. Let me rephrase it. Someone that shows up for meetings, shares a couple of points and then vanishes into the next meeting is not doing their job.