Since I started working professionally in delivering technology products, analyzing the growing tech startup scene and lately prototyping solutions using emerging technologies. I could testify that most of the mistakes that I have committed and observed had to do with the discipline of Product Management.
At Robusta Studio, a group of product management professionals hosted their first meetup in association with Mind the Product and its community meetups brand Product Tank, the volunteer group called “Product Guys” has done a fine job featuring a presentation and Q&A panel tackling the basics of product management.
Michael Soliman led an interesting Career evolving from the technology side into the product management side. Beside his experience and insights, Michael’s charachter and attitude intrigued me as possibly being the most important asset in working in product management.
Michael sees himself as a facilitator for the tech and business teams to gurantee product success. I gathered my thoughts from the discussion and Michael’s story into the following pieces of advice – in case you a Black Mirror fan, I’m making reference to a favorite episode that help us visualize the role of product manager:
1. Empathy: Never Overstep on Anyone’s Domain Expertise or Responsability
One of the big challenges operating as a facilitator between different teams and disciplines is seeing how everyone is getting territorial, if this happens, the most honest of actions can be taken as undermining someone’s authority. Keeping your ego at the door is essential for productivity and the best way to reach that is to be the first doing it and inspiring the culture.
A product person must practice empathy with the teams and team leaders engaged with their work, on taking the time to process how they think about the challenge from their prespective without becoming pushover, a challenge for introverted empaths who naturally avoid confrontations and as a result commit to unreasonable deadlines and responsabilities.
Daly the introverted CTO from Black Mirror comes to mind as someone who supresses and often sacrifices his comfort, needs and leadership capacity for the sake of the comfort of everyone else, ending up with entrapping everyone in a digital game! Not funny!
Michael shared with me in discussion after that what he found essential in these discussions and negotiations is explictly relying on facts and maintaining a friendly relationship with everyone on a personal level.
Don’t be grandiose and don’t be a push over. Good luck figuring out what that means in every situation you encounter.
2. Committment: Take your time with estimates and trust people to decide and commit on their own
Missing a deadline or falling short on producing something they promised is a pain for every professional . You don’t want to be seen as not committed and you empathize with people who don’t want the same to happen with them.
By then getting people to commit also requires you to give them the time and space to assess their priorities, allocated time and provide a reasonable estimate that you can probably then negotiate.
Remember how Daly’s partner stormed into his room to tell him that the update will have to go live anyway, the way he shouted and tabbed our introverted engineer in the head? That’s not nice. Don’t be like Daly’s boss or you know the consequences.
If you provide software development services, your client will think they control the flow of what gets done, the same if your CEO is not engaged or experienced in the product development process. By then, proactively engaging primary stakeholders (who don’t report to you) by explaining your product management process is a very effective practice to minimize future conflicts and have ground rules to get back to whenever conflict arises.
Imagine a product manager who can keep everyone happy? Yes, keep that thought, because that’s probably just meant to be an imagination.
Product Guys are planning to host a bi-monthly meetup and a bi-monthly Product Tank (indepth sessions). If you are interested in product management, you can join their Group on Facebook and keep yourself updated.