What Makes a Great Product Manager by Graham Siener "Product people - Product managers, product designers, UX designers, UX researchers, Business analysts, developers, makers & entrepreneurs May 05 2020 True product management, Product Management Skills, ProductTank NYC, Mind the Product Mind the Product Ltd 466 Product Management 1.864

What Makes a Great Product Manager by Graham Siener


In this ProductTank New York talk, Graham Siener, formerly at Pivotal but now VP of Product at VMWare, looks at how product people can understand where their true power lies when they strive to be a great product manager.

A great product manager is great in any industry, says Graham. He suggests that you examine yourself critically and ask why it is that you’re not doing something. Is it because you’re afraid of it, or is it because you can’t do it? Are your constraints real or are they manufactured?

The Most Important Thing

You should feel comfortable saying, ‘the thing I’m working on right now is the most important thing’, and this rings true for all business. If you’re working on something that someone asked for six months ago you need to work out why it is you can’t move faster. Effective agile means embracing change.

He cites the transformation of GE as an example of an organization which has made huge changes to its business in order to stay relevant. The company didn’t fire everyone who made turbines and hire people to make mobile apps. The most important thing, he says, is to take great people with domain expertise who can translate it into something new.

The Balanced Team

Graham also reviews the Balanced Team approach. The idea is that when you put together a product team, you achieve a balance between the product manager, the product designer, and the engineer.

He says that great things can happen when you bring a heterogeneous team together with different skill sets to work a common goal. “It will let you understand that intersection of feasibility, viability, and desirability.”

However, he cautions product managers to not be the “ultimate decider” of large decisions. Even if the product manager comes from a background of engineering or design, it’s poor product management to make a snap decision on either one of those choices without consulting the team. “If they’re doing the engineer’s job, then who’s doing the product manager’s job?”

The “Think, Make, Check” Cycle

He then looks at user centered design, referring to the “think, make, check” cycle. To truly understand the customer’s problem, you must first identify the problem from the customer’s perspective. “Really immerse yourself in your users’ world. Think about what they are doing today. They are solving problems today, even if they are not using your product.” A product manager’s job isn’t to bring immediate solutions that satisfy the needs of one, but satisfy the needs of many. “The thing that you’re solving isn’t built in a vacuum,” Graham says. “As a product manager, you should be saving your teams from doing work that is useless.”