Apr 19, 2017 2 min read

Post: 10 Questions from The Clever PM

I’ve known Cliff Gilley, The Clever PM, for years — and follow his blog/Quora activity/social posts.  As part of his “10 Questions” series, he reached out for some long-form discussion.   See the full post here, which covers items including

  • What does “Product Management” mean to me?
  • What are the biggest challenges that Product Managers face?
  • What advice do I have for Product Managers struggling to balance agility and Agile development with planning and strategy?

Here’s one Q&A that I’ve copied back verbatim…


What are the biggest challenges for Product Leaders?

  • Creating executive support for a planning and prioritization process that can survive escalations from sales teams and very large customers. We can’t say “yes” to every shiny object. Instead, we need to slow down the “hey, I just talked with a customer, and…” cycle just enough to weigh impacts and trade-offs. Train every exec to laugh out loud when Sales says “this is really easy, probably only 10 lines of code.”
  • Driving agreement about what’s generally part of the product manager’s responsibilities and what’s not. Sales should do most product demos (not Product); Engineering should do QA testing (not Product); Marketing should design customer collateral (not Product). We sometimes lean in to help with each of these, but there’s no time left for product management if we’re doing everyone else’s jobs.
  • Keeping HR from creating activity-based metrics for promoting and rewarding product managers. Going to meetings, writing user stories, and presenting roadmaps are necessary activities – but I don’t want bonuses to be based on how many meetings my team attends, or how many user stories they write, or whether roadmap PPTs were submitted in time. (Otherwise, we’ll get more meetings, more stories, more PPTs, and crappy products.)

I work mostly with product leaders (who manage teams of product managers), and I sometimes step into companies as the interim/acting VP of Product Management. I see a range of organizational issues that can’t be solved by individual product managers, so need to be solved higher up in the management ranks.  Product leaders need to create the conditions that let individual product managers succeed. That means addressing the company-wide issues that every product manager faces.

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