Characteristics of great product managers
When hiring product managers, you should select for the following skills:
1. Product taste. Product taste means having the insights and intuition to understand customer needs for a product in a given area. What product features will wow a customer or meet their core needs? If the PM is joining you from another industry they may not know the specific needs of your customers. However, they should have the skill set and tool kit to quickly learn about your customers and their needs.
2. Ability to prioritize. What is the value of a proposed product feature versus the engineering work needed to accomplish it? What is more important—a new product for the sales team or a feature for customers? Should pricing be optimized for consumers or small business owners? What is the 80% product that should be launched immediately and what singular customer problem does it solve?
3. Ability to execute. A big part of product management is convincing and cajoling teams and different resources to get the product to launch, and then to maintain the product and support the customer base. Product managers will partner with engineering, design, legal, customer support, and other functions to execute on the product road map.
4. Strategic sensibilities. How is the industry landscape evolving? How can the product be positioned to make an end run around the competition? Intel’s famous pricing strategy in the 1970s is a good example of a bold strategic move. At the time Intel understood there was a strong reduction in their own costs as they scaled unit sales. Dropping unit sales would lead to increased demand and volume, causing a virtuous cycle. Intel smartly decided to launch a new silicon product at cost below their COGs in order to scale market share faster. In response, their customers bought in volumes they had not projected until two years out, causing a massively lower cost structure for them and therefore profitability. In other words, their low pricing became self-fulfilling and sustainable through massive volumes years ahead of projections.
5. Top 10% communication skills. Much of the job of a product manager boils down to understanding and then communicating trade-offs to a diverse group of coworkers and external parties.
6. Metrics and data-driven approach. You build what you measure. Part of the role of a product manager is to work with engineering and the data science team to define the set of metrics the product team should track. Setting the right metrics can be hard, and even the right metrics can sometimes drive the wrong behavior.
- Good Product Manager/Bad Product Manager by Ben Horowitz
- What, exactly, is a Product Manager?
- What It Takes to Become a Great Product Manager
- The History and Evolution of Product Management
- Product Management Fundamentals
- First 30 days as a PM – what should you do? – Ken Norton
The product manager you hire depends on the type of product your company is working on. Often companies need a mix of the below. Some people can function as more than one type of PM,
Principle #1: Take Ownership.
By taking ownership of the initial failure, We built trust with our team and our manager.