Finding Your Product Management Story

Product Management gets a bad rap.

Many who hail from the C-Suite don’t know what Product Management is and what Product Managers do. Others such as Tim Berglund, from GitHub just want to “Kill The Product Owner“! In summary he says, “Ahhh … the Product Manager / Product Owner (whatever you call him or her), needs to go. Instead, the people that code should hang out with the customer and understand their goals so that they may create better products.”

Never mind that the Engineers I’ve worked may not enjoy engaging directly with customers. Maybe I’ve got it wrong. Sound like sour grapes? You are probably right.

Got me thinking, why is a profession and the people that do it so misunderstood especially when WE truly believe that we add value.

Perhaps we don’t add VALUE and we are simply a bunch of email shufflers and powerpoint junkies or perhaps the problem is that we don’t know how to convey the VALUE we add to a business.

The job of Product Management is quite operational. Sorry to those who think otherwise. That means that all the problems with the in-market product gets dumped on the Product Manager. Its expected that the Product Manager picks up these issues and resolves them without question. When a job is operational, it’s hard to define. What can you say… “I fix stuff!” Or perhaps you’ve heard…. “I’m the glue that keeps the product functioning”. Do CEOs really want to know about glue? – I don’t think so.

So how do we solve this minor problem?

If we want to be more than operational, we need to change.

We need to stop being so internally focused and step away from our email and powerpoint decks. Products don’t get built and don’t get sold when we send emails. I can’t emphasise this enough… Get out of the building and engage with people. People who buy your product, people who sell your product, people who supply you with stuff that go into making your product… Go and meet them!

When you meet with them, learn their stories. Learn to tell their stories and learn to craft your own story. What is it that you do? Why do you do it? What do you love about it? Why have you decided to build this feature? Where will you take your product in 2 years?

And who doesn’t love a good story. As children, we’re captivated by stories our parents tell us and read to us. Its a learning tool. As working adults, we should continue to embrace storytelling. We sometimes forget to bring that aspect to work. But in fact, its the currency of life which needs to be brought into the workplace. According to Jonathan Gottschall author of The Storytelling Animal, How Stories Make Us Human, “stories act like a drug that reliably lulls us into an altered state of consciousness.” If we don’t know how to convey what we do in a story, the listener will switch off. He also says that “stories are actually effective in influencing us–in modifying our thinking and behavior.”

So here’s my Brainmates story….

“I’ve always wanted an adventure. The thought of 1 desk and 1 office scared me. Inspired by Tom Peters, I wanted a different way of working and contributing to the world.

So .. I created my own adventure.

It’s a company called Brainmates. Brainmates personifies everything I love in life. A caring, generous, hard working team, an entrepreneurial spirit, crazy, brave clients who become good friends, resourcefulness, creativity, simplicity, travel, important conversations and undoubtedly ….. never knowing what is around the corner but being prepared for anything. It’s my community of Product Managers. And I want more of them.”

What’s your story?

We need to believe that we’re more than the glue that brings all the product elements together. If we don’t, we’ve failed ourselves.