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On Product Management

What’s expected from great product managers

By its very nature, the role of a product manager is ambiguous and vague. In some companies, product managers drive the vision and the strategy of their products. In other companies, they’re confined to project facilitation. Sometimes they’re referred to as program managers, product marketers, project owners, or sometimes in small companies, executives.

Given the ambiguity of the role, setting proper and clear expectations with your product managers is key to their success and to the success of the company. I’ve seen good product managers falter when expectations aren’t set and communicated properly.

“The quality of our expectations determines the quality of our actions.” — Andre Godin

Behind every amazing product is a great product manager. In tech companies, great product managers master a lot of skills. Here are the most important ones:

Vision and Strategy

  • They have a plan.
  • They define what success looks like.
  • They develop a strong point of view rooted in data and insight.

Roadmap and Impact
  • They sign off on quality (UX, functionality and performance).
  • They understand the architecture of their product.
  • They know their tools.
  • They account for everything.
  • They take risks.
  • They operate their product (launch it, measure its impact, manage its evolution with testing and data, decide when to retire it).

Communication and Visibility

  • They are the face of the product.
  • They evangelize a shared understanding of their product.
  • They tell the story often.
  • They listen often.
  • They ensure the WHY and the WHAT of their product are crystal clear.
  • They write about their product.

Leadership and Culture

  • They follow up.
  • They follow through.
  • They own the mistakes of the product.
  • They share the success of the product.

These expectations are skills and habits that can be learned, improved upon and mastered over time. Product managers are the CEOs of their products. They own it end-to-end. The puck stops with them.

Do you have different expectations of the role of a product manager? What’s missing from this list? Would love to hear your thoughts.