Good Product Manager/Bad Product Manager

As written by Ben Horowitz in “The hard thing about hard things”

Good product managers know the market, the product, the product line and the
competition extremely well and operate from a strong basis of knowledge and
confidence. A good product manager is the CEO of the product. A good product
manager takes full responsibility and measures themselves in terms of the
success of the product. The are responsible for right product/right time and all
that entails. A good product manager knows the context going in (the company,
our revenue funding, competition, etc.), and they take responsibility for devising
and executing a winning plan (no excuses).
Bad product managers have lots of excuses. Not enough funding, the
engineering manager is an idiot, Microsoft has 10 times as many engineers
working on it, I’m overworked, I don’t get enough direction. Barksdale doesn’t
make these kinds of excuses and neither should the CEO of a product.

Good product managers don’t get all of their time sucked up by the various
organizations that must work together to deliver right product right time. They
don’t take all the product team minutes, they don’t project manage the various
functions, they are not gophers for engineering. They are not part of the product
team; they manage the product team. Engineering teams don’t consider Good
Product Managers a “marketing resource.” Good product managers are the
marketing counterpart of the engineering manager. Good product managers
crisply define the target, the “what” (as opposed to the how) and manage the
delivery of the “what.” Bad product managers feel best about themselves when
they figure out “how”. Good product managers communicate crisply to
engineering in writing as well as verbally. Good product managers don’t give
direction informally. Good product managers gather information informally.

Good product managers create leveragable collateral, FAQs, presentations,
white papers. Bad product managers complain that they spend all day answering
questions for the sales force and are swamped. Good product managers
anticipate the serious product flaws and build real solutions. Bad product
managers put out fires all day. Good product managers take written positions on
important issues (competitive silver bullets, tough architectural choices, tough
product decisions, markets to attack or yield). Bad product managers voice their
opinion verbally and lament that the “powers that be” won’t let it happen. Once
bad product managers fail, they point out that they predicted they would fail.

Good product managers focus the team on revenue and customers. Bad product
managers focus team on how many features Microsoft is building. Good product
managers define good products that can be executed with a strong effort. Bad
product managers define good products that can’t be executed or let engineering
build whatever they want (i.e. solve the hardest problem).

Good product managers think in terms of delivering superior value to the market
place during inbound planning and achieving market share and revenue goals
during outbound. Bad product managers get very confused about the differences
amongst delivering value, matching competitive features, pricing, and ubiquity.

Good product managers decompose problems. Bad product managers combine
all problems into one.

Good product managers think about the story they want written by the press. Bad
product managers think about covering every feature and being really technically
accurate with the press. Good product managers ask the press questions. Bad
product managers answer any press question. Good product managers assume
press and analyst people are really smart. Bad product managers assume that
press and analysts are dumb because they don’t understand the difference
between “push” and “simulated push.”

Good product managers err on the side of clarity vs. explaining the obvious. Bad
product managers never explain the obvious. Good product managers define
their job and their success. Bad product managers constantly want to be told
what to do.

Good product managers send their status reports in on time every week,
because they are disciplined. Bad product managers forget to send in their status
reports on time, because they don’t value discipline.

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