What’s the Difference Between a Good and Bad Agile Product Manager?

Whether you’re looking for someone to fill the Product Manager role for your new project, or you’re a product manager looking to brush up on your skills and add more value to your team and organization, we thought it would be helpful to introduce you to two very different job descriptions.

The first is a job description for The Bad Product Manager. If you’re interested in wasted time, frustration, and eventually a failed release, this is profile of the person you want to hire as your Project Manager.

The second is for The Good Product Manager. If you’d like to see a quality product released efficiently and with minimal headaches, this is the person you should hire.

Let’s compare and contrast the two to determine which qualities really make up the best product managers.

The Bad Product Manager

The Bad Product Manager may or may not have Agile experience, or experience in the disciplines required to complete the project successfully. He or she will, however, have a very strong opinion about how everything should be done from the start. The following philosophical foundation, skill set, and day-to-day activities are the earmark of The Bad Product Manager:

  • This individual lacks personal discipline, as evidenced by routine tardiness, lack of organization, and a tendency to blame others for their own mistakes.
  • They are very narrowly focused, with extreme “tunnel vision”, and they have a hard time seeing other peoples’ views.
  • They are eager to garner personal praise and recognition, but not very interested in the team receiving the same. They like to take credit when things go right, but shift blame when things go wrong.
  • They lack a sense of pride or ownership in the product. This is just their job five days a week.
  • They are extremely adept at making excuses. Absolutely nothing goes wrong on their watch without a fully-fleshed-out explanation as to why it was inevitable due to other peoples’ actions and attitudes.
  • They tend to be scared of Engineering, and allow them to build whatever they want whenever they want.
  • They likely have a very fuzzy view of success for the product. They’re not sure what that looks like, but they know that if it happens, it was due to their effort.
  • They tend to eschew prioritizing work, because, why bother?
  • They think about the product itself when it’s convenient to do so, but it does not occupy a big part of their day. They deal with it when they have to.
  • They actively ignore feedback from some sources and passively fail to get the import of feedback from others, unless the feedback comes from the one signing the checks.
  • On a daily basis, they excel at consistently failing to balance scope, budget, and time for the project.
  • They are quick to blame the user for items the user doesn’t understand.
  • They tend to go into “phantom mode” when the team needs answers to questions or clear direction, making themselves hard to find and harder to understand.
  • They need to be told what to do so there is always a measure of deniability.
  • They don’t make any effort to protect the team from distractions because “they’re all big boys and girls.”
  • While scheduling is not their forte’, they do manage to attend every meeting that comes up, whether they need to be there or not.

In summary, you’re looking for a potential Product Manager who is selfish, highly opinionated, closed-minded, irresponsible, undisciplined, and generally tough to work with or respect.

That’s a bad product manager.

The Good Product Manager

The Good Product Manager is both experienced and educated in the disciplines needed to successfully complete the project. But, interestingly, he or she is quick to note that others can and likely do know more than they do about their specialties. While they are decisive and willing to back up their decisions, they are also quick to listen and adjust based on feedback or advice. The following philosophies, skills, and activities help to identify The Good Product Manager:

  • This individual is well known to do whatever it takes to ship a quality product. All their interactions and decisions revolve around that objective.
  • They quickly take ownership of failures and recognize the team for successes.
  • They are highly disciplined and rigorous when they need to be, but they are also approachable, reasonable, and flexible when necessary.
  • If the user is having trouble understanding or using the product, they blame themselves for not explaining it thoroughly, rather than the user for not understanding.
  • They see the value in continuously learning, regardless of the source.
  • They tend to seek to find out “why”, not necessarily “how”, and then give direction accordingly.
  • They are proactive, but always willing to listen and adjust as needed. Their way is not the only way.
  • They are equally adept at discussing intricate details or taking a high level strategic view of the product, and can change gears quickly and easily based on the audience and the discussion.
  • They have developed a strong 360º view of the product, the customer, the competition, and the technology, and they use the same full-circle view when making decisions and answering questions.
  • They are fantastic prioritizers, and they do it all the time.
  • They are willing to do anything and everything to promote team production, whether it’s planning and facilitating short and efficient meetings, or running for coffee while the team is working hard.
  • They are excellent communicators with all stakeholders in all formats. It’s second nature to them to be clear and understandable.
  • They are ruthless in keeping distractions away from their team.
  • They are excellent listeners.

In summary, your ideal candidate is an intelligent, eloquent, and friendly leader who lives and breathes the product, values the input of all team members, colleagues, overseers, and customers, and proactively works toward a successful product release all day every day.

That’s a good product manager.

If you’re not certain you can locate a good product manager on your own, consider letting cPrime find one for you.

Learn more about finding the right Agile Professionals