Any Hack Can Get Things Done

October 14, 2016 by

One of the beautiful things about the digital age is the ability to share information quickly, and to a wide audience. A lot of what we receive is of dubious value. You know it; I know it, too. But…every once in a while we come across a real nugget. So in the interest of sharing, here is an article I wish I’d written.

Product Manager: an attribute or job title? By Matt Khoury

Essentially, Mr. Khoury addresses what product managers do, summarizing this as a job of getting things done. It’s an interesting way to pull this apart. Often times, I’ve had to explain how a product manager differs from a project manager.

At minimum, it’s the market understanding as well as cross-functional accountability that separates product management from project management.

While the job of getting things done is one thing, the skill set is entirely another. There’s no college course on product management. Each product manager enters from a different discipline (eg: marketing, engineering, information technology, sales, sometimes, even law).

So you might ask, what is the skill set for a product manager?

Steve Johnson of Under 10 Consulting explains it this way (in his ebook – From Fragile to Agile): A product manager skill set is comprised of four areas:

    • business knowledge (eg: traditional business aspects: finance, operations, sales, etc.)
    • market knowledge (eg: the market served)
    • domain knowledge (eg: what the product solves)
    • technology knowledge (eg: how the product works)

It’s rare that an incoming Product Manager has all four skill areas. An intellectually curious and hard working person can figure out, or get training in, the areas that he doesn’t know.

However, Mr. Johnson doesn’t address passion; an area that I think is critical but cannot be defined as a skill set. Intuitively, I’ve always believed passion is a big driver and looked at my own past experiences as a guide. It took Mr. Khoury’s article to truly frame this for me.

Any hack can get things done. It takes a passionate person to get the right things done, care enough to get them done correctly, learn the business and market drivers, understand the technology and how potential solutions provide additional value for a current or latent customer. All this, while, providing leadership and an eye toward continuous improvement and innovation. Profitably.

Markets are constantly changing and customer needs are always evolving. Someone has to be paying attention to this and Getting Things Done. Product Management folks refer to this product ownership responsibility as ‘one throat to choke’. Someone has to be responsible for keeping an eye on market and customer needs because….

….without customers using your products, you have no business.