We are Product Managers

When I joined Twitter, one of my key responsibilities was building the product management organization to keep pace with the growth of our engineering and design teams and to lay the foundation for scalable product development going forward.  In less than a year, we more than tripled the size of the team (total company headcount grew even faster).  As you might expect with that kind of employee growth, there were many questions about how various functions should work together, especially the product development-oriented functions of engineering, design and product management.  At Twitter, we evangelized an operating model where project teams were constructed with product, engineering and design leads, each representing three equal legs of the product development stool (with other functions also providing input and feedback throughout the development process).  However, as the teams began working under this model, it became clear that each function was struggling with defining its role relative to the roles of other functions.  Who should be involved in what conversations?  Where were the lines drawn?  Who was the “decider”?  And like many companies, we were faced with the oft-asked existential questions of “Is product management needed?” and “What role does product management play in product development?”

Given all of these questions, my product team needed a reminder about why they were all there as individuals and as a product management function.  Fortunately, the web offers many excellent write-ups and conversations about what it means to be a great product manager.  But I also wanted to share my personal views on product management, developed through years of product success and failure, particularly because I believe that product management is more an attitude than a set of skills.

Below is the description of the product manager’s mentality that I shared with the team at Twitter.  I was told that it proved helpful to many of them (hopefully it still is!) as they worked with their engineering and design peers and I’m hopeful that it will be equally useful to product people (current and aspiring) who are trying to do the difficult but incredibly gratifying job of product management.  In one way or another, it’s a job I’ll always have and love.

As Product Managers, we are the CEOs of our products.  We love products.  We focus first on delivering value to our users.  We know who we are building for and what we are building.  We know why we are building it and where we are building to long term.  We communicate the who, what, why and where clearly, concisely and frequently.  We communicate with anyone and everyone who is interested, but most importantly to our teams.  We let our teams determine how to build.

We pursue excellence by thinking bigger and bolder than is comfortable.  We don’t settle for good enough.  We choose right over easy.  We choose simplicity over complexity.  We don’t make excuses.  We take responsibility.  We are tirelessly curious.  We respect our competitors, not fear them.  We understand why we win and what we must do to keep winning.

We lead by example.  We succeed by making others successful.  We listen first and make certain that others feel that they’ve been heard.  We pursue diverse opinions.  We rally our teams behind a vision that yields passion and commitment.  We value and foster strong team relationships.

We are determined and positive.  We use words and take actions that embody a can-do attitude.  We trust others to do their jobs well but we verify that they are done right.  We are honest, direct and empathetic.  We adjust to our audiences and situations.  We are decisive when needed, but always collaborative.

We know the definition of success.  We hold ourselves and our teams accountable to it.  We set the bar high.  We provide focus through prioritization.  We increase quality through iteration.  We don’t like surprises, so we prepare for them.  We pay attention to the details because we care.  We fill in the gaps and do whatever it takes to get the job done.  We don’t wait to be told what to do.  We leverage data but aren’t slaves to it.  We are honest.  We seek the truth.

We take time to reflect.  We don’t fear failure.  We strive to improve.

We are Product Managers.

Thanks to Hunter Walk and Josh Elman for reading drafts of this post.

11 thoughts on “We are Product Managers

  1. I think this is great! It makes me wonder what equivalent manifestos for developers and designers might look like. I’d like to think that other teams would have a lot of similar ideals. On the other hand, some of the points in the manifesto are about being a counterpoint to the prevailing ethos in development, especially “We choose right over easy,” which really resonates with me. One more point that I might add would be “We strive to make things as simple as possible, but not simpler.”

  2. Having a goal first approach is critical to personal and PM success and I am glad to see someone else writing about what it takes to be a great product manager.

    Developing great software is invigorating. Product managers should be the happiest people on earth. But most companies never benefit from their love of innovation because product and engineering managers are beaten down by soft strategies, weak tools, and squishy communication.

    We recently started Aha! (www.aha.io), a roadmapping software company for PMs who want to get their mojo back.

    The response has been overwhelming. We seem to have touched a nerve.

    We have also recently published widely popular blog posts on:

    Hey Product Managers — Stop Pissing Off The Engineers

    The Minimum Lovable Product

    Hey Engineers — Your Product Manager Needs a Hug

    I hope that more voices come forward — because as you mentioned — PMs are the CEOs of the products and in software companies, the product is the company.

    Aha! co-founder and CEO

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  4. Satya, Wonderful article. you clearly defined hard work, planning, responsibility, dedication will have for a product manager to make the products successful. You are right product heads are the CEO of the products. I wish you all the best for your future Success.

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