The post about Product Management resonated with quite a few people. It then begs the question why this isn’t the norm in most companies I have worked at. There is one main factor - among potentially many combinations of minor ones. It’s the ability to say no.

We have to take one step back, because not saying no is the manifestation of something else. It starts when the individual lacks confidence and assertiveness. Although one can make the case that confident individuals are usually assertive. Despite the many flaws I have as a manager (you can read about them here, here and here), I was always confident. And there’s nothing special about that trait in my own circumstances. The market was and is good for people that do what I do. So my mentality has been the same for many years. I will try to do the best I can for my team and the company. If I step on someone else’s toes and they want to fire me, sure go ahead. I was certain that I could find something else in one or two months.

Going back to PMs…

The market was and still is good. The rates are high, but so is the demand. I never understood why a good portion of PMs I have worked with were afraid of challenging others into doing the right thing. Or saying no to a CEO that demanded that a feature needed to be delivered in substantially less time than what was expected. It boggles my mind how many times I have seen PMs succumbing to authoritative executives. Or asking their team to split the responsibility of organising the meetings among themselves. It’s no wonder that people during those meetings are bored and completely disengaged - it’s always the same person doing the talking. The lack of confidence also leads to micro-management tendencies. Sometimes PMs want to be in every meeting, because they want to assist in any way possible. They feel their presence helps others. Sometimes they just think that if they miss something they will lose control. It’s quite difficult to differentiate one from the other. But ask yourself these questions:

  1. Does your PM earnestly encourage you to talk with other teams, or they prefer to be the bridge and do the talking?
  2. When presenting the team’s work to the whole company, does your PM ask team members to do the presentation, or are they always the one doing it?
  3. Is your PM comfortable with the rest of team having a meeting without them?
  4. When there’s a critical bug in a feature and you acknowledge you are working on it. Does your PM keeps asking where you are with it?

By now you should know where your PM stands. But the same rationale applies to Engineering Managers.