One is the Loneliest Number: Managing the “One Product / One Team Scenario”In the last blog post, we talked about how different product managers find themselves in different situations. Every product is different; most companies organize their teams differently, and individual product managers bring different skills and experience to the table. One thing they all have in common is the need to influence, decide, and advocate in order to help their products advance in the market. In this post, we’ll dig into the simplest case and talk about how product managers function in a world where a single PM manages one product being worked on by one team. Although this isn’t the most common case in the industry, it is foundational for understanding the role of the product manager and the responsibilities as well as the levers he has to pull. In our following blog posts, we’ll jump into more complex cases of product management leadership.
One Product, One TeamIn this first scenario we describe, we truly have a superhero product manager who is working as part of a single product team that design, builds, and brings to market a single product. Sometimes we find this scenario in fledgling startups where people are working with all their will to make it. Sometimes we find this scenario in larger corporations where a small group of folks get to focus on an isolated offering. I had this opportunity only once and it was one of the scariest, yet most thrilling experiences in product management. You truly get to do it all (sales support, strategy, customer support, and the techy stuff), but there’s a catch. You are responsible for it all too. A team of people and potentially the entire company is counting on you to chart a course forward, to make the right decisions, and to balance the future with the right now. Let’s look at the product manager’s life in this role, starting with what she influences, decides on, and advocates for within this product model.
Product vision, strategy, and roadmap
Go to market and product positioning
Growth strategy (revenue growth vs. profitability vs. strategic play)
Product team’s belief and confidence in product strategy
Roadmap details, release composition, and sequence for delivering value
Balance of investment in new features vs. enhancement and bugs vs. technical health
Investment of time in sales support, customer support, marketing support, and delivery support
The product story – this is the explanation of what we are building, why we are building it, and who we are building it for.
Definition of product story details (in product backlog) (e.g. user stories and epics/features)
More help for product in the market, i.e. increased investment in marketing spend or sales effort
Investment in R&D
More help for product team
Buyers and users (You’ll likely need to advocate a bit harder for the user than the buyer.)
Struggles and TrapsShoot, it’s now clear that this product manager has an awful lot to do. How does he/she manage it all? Let’s take a look at some of the struggles PM’s face in this structure and some traps to avoid.
|Too many balls to juggle||No matter what, you’ll face this struggle at some point as a PM. When you are completely overloaded, frazzled, and feel you can never keep up, work to avoid these traps:
|Not having all the necessary skills||This PM is faced with an insane amount of skills to master. There are very few people that have them all. The rest of us need to mitigate our weaknesses and leverage our strengths.
|Trying to please everyone||Everyone around you will have opinions about what you should be doing. Few of them will agree with you. As the product manager, it is your job to drive the bus. You don’t do that without listening, but you must accept that you will never please everyone.