“It’s Not Just Me”

I recently ran a series of workshops specifically for product management leaders: Directors and VPs of Product, CPOs, and others who head up product teams. At each session, the biggest eye-opener was the group’s realization that our issues are widespread. (Perhaps even universal.) Most of us struggle with… executive teams that override carefully crafted roadmaps; with uncertain job boundaries; with a dearth of product talent in the recruiting funnel; with no perfect way to allocate our teams across large, complex products.

But we tend think of these as personal failures rather than the systemic challenges of our role. (“I must be doing something wrong if my executive team keeps forgetting what we’ve committed to build. More experienced VPs of Product Management have surely figured this out.”)

So it was great to see a wave of recognition roll around the room. “If a half-dozen of my peers have raised the same issue, it can’t just be about me.”  There is freedom in giving something a name; in identifying it as a pattern; in hearing how others describe and deal with a complex organizational issue. To slightly depersonalize a very personal/emotional job.

Directors and VPs of Product rarely have an opportunity to network informally with our peers. We’re busy riding herd on semi-chaotic product cycles; intensely networking with our Engineering/Marketing/Sales/Support peers; mentoring our teams; deflecting today’s barrage of random interrupts; carving time out for home. Let’s not be neglect the value in meeting, sharing and naming our challenges.

Even if it feels like group therapy.

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