For understanding the trials and pitfalls of a product manager, read Orwell’s essay “Shooting an Elephant.”

It makes a great allegory: The elephant is like that feature that just “has to be done” even though it’s not well conceived or vetted. And upon trying to deliver that feature, it’s not executed well because the caliber wasn’t sufficient, i.e. not a big enough gun to do the job. So very many features are left suffering and dying in the field this way.

On bad days, to be a product manager is to be that colonial policeman: stuck with doing something nobody wants done but must be done to preserve order, (or so we might believe at the time). Albeit a false dichotomy, the dilemma may become “do I do this thing I know is wrong (and possibly look like a fool), or do I abandon my post (to do the right thing)?”

On good days we realize that we are not in the same position as that colonial policeman. We can reframe the situation so that there is no angry mob by talking to customers, talking to leaders, and learning what really matters to stakeholders (maintaining market power, keeping people safe).

It’s not so much an inspirational tale as it is a cautionary one. But it does help to explain the pitfalls we can fall into as PMs and as company leaders.

One clap, two clap, three clap, forty?

By clapping more or less, you can signal to us which stories really stand out.