Rich Mironov introduced me to perhaps the best metaphor of all: the product manager is a parent of the product.
One acquaintance heard this story and completely screwed it up. She said, “Wow! That’s great! As a mom, I make their meals and wash the dishes. I make sure they do their homework and that I have extra poster board in the house in case they forget to plan for a project. I make their beds and do their laundry.”
And on she continued while I listened in horror. “That’s not a mother,” I thought. “That’s a maid!”
Let’s talk about parenting. Good parents provide discipline and focus. They save for college and advise their kids on which fields seem to be best for their temperament. Our job as parents is to turn undisciplined kids into self-reliant adults. We teach them our values, how to manage their schedules and their finances. We teach them how to make a bed and then we expect them to make it themselves, every time. We teach them how to make a meal, sew a button, hem a pair of slacks—so that when they’re in college or in their own apartments, they have these skills and don’t have to come back home every weekend.
Isn’t this the definition of a good product manager? Like a parent, the product manager provides focus, vision, explanations of what is expected. A good product manager helps create a functioning product that can enter the real world and not have to come back.
And if you choose to extend the metaphor, the same is true of product managers and our counterparts in other departments. We don’t want to do demos for sales people; we want sales people to do their own demos. We can make sure they have the education they need to do their own. Same for marketing, and support. And development.
Teach a man to fish. Give these groups explanations of the market, its problems, the positioning (vision) for the product, and then trust that these teams can take it from there.
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.