Is the product manager the "president of the product"? It a common metaphor.
In many ways, the product manager role seems similar to the president of a small company. The president has an initial product idea and starts a company. In addition to focusing new folks on his vision, he sets up the email and web servers, and comes in on Sunday when those servers are down. He runs the backups and puts the backup drives in the trunk of his car. He investigates and purchases the security systems for the office. He reorders hand towels for the rest room. He puts together a presentation for himself but shares it with others. He stays late on Friday to finalize payroll—or stays while his spouse does it. He is “all other departments.”
But this analogy falls apart when we expand the company. As the company grows and other departments come into existence, the president can no longer do payroll, and IT support, and development, marketing, and sales. He has people now with those responsibilities. And he holds those department heads accountable. If the servers are down, the IT department works through the weekend to get back online; the president no longer takes the responsibility nor is he really able to do the work since he wasn’t the one who set them up. When payroll is messed up, he expects the head of finance to stay late and fix it; he doesn’t do it himself.
And of course, a good president fires those department heads if these problems occur too frequently. A problem that occurs once or twice is an accident; a problem that occurs frequently is a trend. He replaces those who can't do the job with qualified people.
Maybe it's the “product manager equals president” mindset that causes us to micro-manage others. And maybe it causes us to enable the dysfunction of others. But unless we can fix the people and the process, product management is often just hiding the real issues.
If we see a problem and hide it, we’re part of the problem.
Need help selling the idea in your organization. Download one of our free ebooks. The Strategic Role of Product Management focuses on the strategic role. Living in an Agile World reexamines the role of product management in an agile environment.