We often see Product Management in light of tools and techniques, such as roadmaps and lo-fi usability testing. However, Product Management encompasses more than that. Indeed focusing only on the tools means you are not taking advantage of what Product Management can bring to an organisation.
More than the tools, Leadership is of crucial importance to Product Management.
At its heart Product Management is about the execution of the vision. This execution requires thousands of decisions to be made covering the product. As the product grows and becomes more complex there is a point at which the human scaling problem kicks in. Humans don’t scale, but with leadership, the Product Manager can align and inspire everyone on the execution so that decisions on details can be taken by anyone in the organisation, increasing flexibility and speed of execution.
With so many people making decisions about the product, the cohesion of the product is threatened. With leadership the Product Manager can provide the guidance and course corrections to maintain cohesion in the product without micro-managing or destroying the flexibility and speed of execution that comes from empowering everyone to make decisions on the product.
Product managers not only have to lead within the organisation but also outside of the organisation.
To create that fundamental long term value that is the hallmark of successful products, people need to be able gain the maximum utility or value from at the product. In order to do this people will have to change their behaviour, habits and thought patterns in someway. We use the terms such as barriers to adoption, learning curve and adoption chasm to describe the challenge of changing people.
While product features & technology can help there is a limitation to what that can do, as there is always the human element to the barrier to adoption. Through leadership Product Managers can address the human element of barrier to adoption. Leadership allows the Product Manager to express the reasons why users should change, why they will get value from making that change and then help them make those changes. Without leadership from the Product Manager change is incredibly difficult and scary for users to undertake themselves.
Fundamentally, for Product Managers, leadership is how they create value for the company and for people using their product. Without it business will not be able to overcome the scale problem of humans nor people easily overcome the challenge of changing behaviours, habits and thought patterns.
- Deresiewicz, W. (2011) “Solitude and Leadership”, The American Scholar