“Management is ignoring the bigger picture.”
“Executives won’t let PM manage the product.”
“C-level thinks they know customers and the market better than the PM.”
“Enterprise customers are in control of the roadmap and are pulling the product in multiple directions.”
“Sales overrules all others. Leadership believes they know best simply because they are the ones selling the product.”
Management can, at times, feel like they’re one of the biggest exhaustions in a Product Manager’s life. Your idea of what the product’s vision should be may wildly differ from theirs.
Existing products may be ignored for the new shiny toys that sales want to push. However, as customers grow and mature with the product you’ve delivered them, the more likely you are to increase Live-Time Value (LTV).
But getting management to see this can be hard and there may be a time when you’ve tried everything to no avail. You’re starting to feel like you’ve grown ripe on the tree and are ready to take on new challenges–or simply find a product-driven company to work for.
PMs are the fulcrum on which customer, business, team, and personal needs must balance. It’s not an uncommon strategy for management to follow the money and ignore existing, good-selling products for a limited set of customers–who chew up more of the product’s time than all others combined. You’re trading in the core customer base in favor of those that demand more time, attention, and money.
You end up running in circles, chasing feature requirements that have no bearing or use to your core customer base.
Do you need to get yourself out of situations like these?
Is it causing more harm than good?
Part of the PM role is to sell the product vision to stakeholders. But oftentimes people have made up their mind well before you have the chance to discuss and idea or direction with them.
It’s one thing if you’re able to persuade most people most of the time versus some people some of the time. This can be disheartening–and may lead you to thinking about moving on. The question then becomes:
How do you avoid being in this kind of situation in the future?
Part of the hiring process involves assessing the people you’ll be working with and for. You want to get to know the individuals you’ll be working with such as team members, leadership members, your counterparts on other teams, direct reports.
While most of the focus is on vetting you, there is no reason you cannot do some–if not all–of the following things to help get a better understanding of the people you’ll be working with.
Research the company before you apply. This is something you should be doing anyway. Read their blog postings or articles on LinkedIn. Learn about the founder for a sense of who they are. You want to understand what motivates them. Do they have a sense of purpose? Are they driven by ego?
You need to figure out (there’s a lot more, but this should help get you started):
- If they have a well-defined strategy–and what it is.
- Whether you identify with and respect the leadership team.
- How the vision for the product is determined.
- Who determines the vision for the product.
- How requests are made from all stakeholders.
- How opportunities are identified.
- The process new opportunities go through–including discovery, specification, testing, usability, delivery, et al.
- Whether requirements documents are adhered to.
You do this by asking questions during the interview process.
Questions to ask
It’s great when you get to sit down one-on-one with multiple team members and a good cross-section of management. So ideally, you’ll get to ask these questions of multiple people.
What you want to find out is if they are a product-driven company. Here are some to get you rolling:
- Can you walk me through how decisions are made?
- Tell me about the company’s vision.
- How do you measure the success of the product team?
- How do you determine who or what drives the product roadmap and/or vision?
- What is the sales team’s role, in relation to the product team?
- How does the marketing team collaborate with the product team?
- What are the top team-related problems or issues or functions that need to change or need the most support?
- Tell me about the most recent time you had to make a hard decision– the options you considered and what you decided to do.
Notice they are all open-ended questions. You want to get people talking and sharing openly. If you can do that you’ll be able to get at the answers you want much more quickly.
When people open up you’ll be able to get a sense of what things are like as well as how they feel.
When management refuses to take a customer-driven approach it’s tempting to see your only way out is through the front door.