Fireside chat with Marty Cagan "Product people - Product managers, product designers, UX designers, UX researchers, Business analysts, developers, makers & entrepreneurs May 05 2022 False Career, ProductTank, Mind the Product Mind the Product Ltd 690 Product Management 2.76

Fireside chat with Marty Cagan

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In this ProductTank Zurich talk, Marty Cagan, Partner at Silicon Valley Product Group sits down for a Fireside chat to answer questions about his career and advise other product managers.

Watch the entire session in full, or read on to hear what he has to say about:

  • Why there is so much noise and confusion in the product community
  • Empowering product managers
  • What a product manager does
  • Convincing project-oriented companies to become more product-oriented
  • Becoming more product-led

Why there is so much noise and confusion in the product community

Marty enjoys getting questions about product management, but sometimes the same questions keep popping up because there are actually many different and conflicting opinions causing confusion, particularly for new product managers. Marty explains that his wish is for every new product manager to have a capable and experienced product manager to help them get better at their job.

When asked if that’s one of the reasons he writes, Marty explains that he sees each article as the MVP for a book chapter. The best product managers often know about these things, but several others are surprised at what they read, indicating the gap between good product companies and the rest.

Empowering product managers

One of the reasons behind the gap between the best product companies and the others and why product managers don’t feel empowered is because there isn’t a clear enough distinction between product owners and product managers. As Marty explains, a product owner is a role on an agile team but should be a product manager at the end of the day, even though this isn’t always the case.

Watch: Leading empowered product teams: AMA with Hope Gurion

What a product manager does

Marty points out that they’ve never seen product management done well in some companies, which can make it difficult for them to be good product-led companies. Company leadership refers to CEOs and product leadership to CPOs, whereas a product owner is just a role that a product manager has. Therefore, the product manager is responsible for solutions built and ensuring that they are both valuable and viable. They need deep knowledge of the customer, data, industry, and company to do this. When asked about a product manager’s skills, Marty explained that a product manager needs to learn every part of the business, so it’s best if they are already familiar with two sections, such as design and engineering or sales and marketing.

It’s vital to assess product people to see what they’re good at and identify ways to get better, as everyone can benefit from coaching.

Convincing project-oriented companies to become more product-oriented

To become product-oriented instead of project-oriented, the company culture must be transformed. However, this is hard to do because there are politics involved. Convincing product managers, designers, and engineers is easy, but change needs to go beyond product and technologies as it impacts everything else. Accomplishing this takes the support of the CEO. However, as Marty points out, if companies don’t do this before it gets too late, they might not survive.

Becoming more product-led

Marty then shifted his attention to CEOs seeking to make their companies more product-led. He explained that as a CEO, you don’t need to be an expert, but you do need to be supportive. Sometimes CEOs need to replace people because they have people who don’t know what they need to do. This might involve investing in product coaches to help train promising people and set them up to do the job better. If you have the right people in place, you can succeed. However, without a true product leader or technology leader, you risk repeating previous problems. The chat continued with a series of questions from the audience.

Enjoy more ProductTank content

ProductTanks are informal meetups, created by Mind the Product, to bring local product people together and to enable speakers to share amazing product insights. Today we have ProductTanks in more than 200 cities across the globe and there’s probably one near you.

Learn more about ProductTank – find your local meetup, explore more ProductTank content, see the latest ProductTank news, and discover ways to get involved!

In this ProductTank Zurich talk, Marty Cagan, Partner at Silicon Valley Product Group sits down for a Fireside chat to answer questions about his career and advise other product managers. Watch the entire session in full, or read on to hear what he has to say about:
  • Why there is so much noise and confusion in the product community
  • Empowering product managers
  • What a product manager does
  • Convincing project-oriented companies to become more product-oriented
  • Becoming more product-led

Why there is so much noise and confusion in the product community

Marty enjoys getting questions about product management, but sometimes the same questions keep popping up because there are actually many different and conflicting opinions causing confusion, particularly for new product managers. Marty explains that his wish is for every new product manager to have a capable and experienced product manager to help them get better at their job. When asked if that's one of the reasons he writes, Marty explains that he sees each article as the MVP for a book chapter. The best product managers often know about these things, but several others are surprised at what they read, indicating the gap between good product companies and the rest.

Empowering product managers

One of the reasons behind the gap between the best product companies and the others and why product managers don't feel empowered is because there isn't a clear enough distinction between product owners and product managers. As Marty explains, a product owner is a role on an agile team but should be a product manager at the end of the day, even though this isn't always the case.

Watch: Leading empowered product teams: AMA with Hope Gurion

What a product manager does

Marty points out that they've never seen product management done well in some companies, which can make it difficult for them to be good product-led companies. Company leadership refers to CEOs and product leadership to CPOs, whereas a product owner is just a role that a product manager has. Therefore, the product manager is responsible for solutions built and ensuring that they are both valuable and viable. They need deep knowledge of the customer, data, industry, and company to do this. When asked about a product manager's skills, Marty explained that a product manager needs to learn every part of the business, so it's best if they are already familiar with two sections, such as design and engineering or sales and marketing. It's vital to assess product people to see what they're good at and identify ways to get better, as everyone can benefit from coaching.

Convincing project-oriented companies to become more product-oriented

To become product-oriented instead of project-oriented, the company culture must be transformed. However, this is hard to do because there are politics involved. Convincing product managers, designers, and engineers is easy, but change needs to go beyond product and technologies as it impacts everything else. Accomplishing this takes the support of the CEO. However, as Marty points out, if companies don't do this before it gets too late, they might not survive.

Becoming more product-led

Marty then shifted his attention to CEOs seeking to make their companies more product-led. He explained that as a CEO, you don't need to be an expert, but you do need to be supportive. Sometimes CEOs need to replace people because they have people who don't know what they need to do. This might involve investing in product coaches to help train promising people and set them up to do the job better. If you have the right people in place, you can succeed. However, without a true product leader or technology leader, you risk repeating previous problems. The chat continued with a series of questions from the audience.

Enjoy more ProductTank content

ProductTanks are informal meetups, created by Mind the Product, to bring local product people together and to enable speakers to share amazing product insights. Today we have ProductTanks in more than 200 cities across the globe and there’s probably one near you. Learn more about ProductTank – find your local meetup, explore more ProductTank content, see the latest ProductTank news, and discover ways to get involved!

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