My recent post about Tom Grant and Rick Chapman got me thinking. Is Rick alone in his misunderstanding of Product Management? To be honest, I knew what the answer would be, but I was rather surprised by what I found within the Product Management community itself!
And not to pick on the following people specifically, but here’s some of what I found:
A Product Manager fills in the gaps between different functions and departments in order to make sure that the product develops and makes progress, with the aim of making the product perform better relative to the competition.
I later saw Jacques being quoted by Chris Cummings (author of the excellent Product Management Meets Pop Culture blog) in slide 2 of this deck on SlideShare.
And on slide 12 of the same deck, Cummings writes the following:
The Product Manager is the glue that binds the team together and the grease that keeps the product moving in the right direction.
And finally, this deck was the basis of a presentation that was given this past November on the Product Management View.
Now I must say that both Jacques and Chris gave a lot more detail to better explain the gaps, grease and glue, but what organization in business would define itself that way?
- We’re Marketing. We’re the grease that enables Sales to do it’s job efficiently.
- We’re Support. We fill the gaps left by Development, Documentation and Training.
- We’re Project Management. We’re the glue that ensure Development and QA stay synchronized.
Do any of those sound like ways those groups would describe themselves? Not to me! So why should we refer to ourselves that way? Particularly when we believe we deliver a critical function within the business. Not only do the grease, glue and gap definitions diminish the value of Product Management, but they are fundamentally wrong.
As Nick Coster of Brainmates wrote in a comment on Chris Cummings blog,
Hey Chris, I used to see the role of the product manager as “the glue that binds teams together” but have now come to think that description grossly understates the imporance of product management.
By referring to the role as a binding or lubricating function, we acknowledge the dysfunction of other teams and accept the burden of resolving their inability to work together. If instead we lead the teams and focus their outputs then we, as the leaders for our products, can drive better outcomes for the business, our customers and ourselves.
I completely agree with Nick.
It’s time to stop describing Product Management as something that fills the gaps or greases the wheel etc. and start describing it consistently as a business critical role that helps optimize R&D investments, aligns teams across departmental silos and helps drive business success for the products under management.
Product Management is a critical enabler of business success, and like other departments such as Sales, Marketing and Finance, must be structured, staffed and directed in a deliberate manner to maximize opportunity for success.