on product parenting
On Ramblings on Product Development, Elaine poses a simple idea for company organization. She writes, "Engineering and product management must be peers." Exactly. The product manager shouldn't be relegated to support for development and neither should a product manager say "just do it because I said so." It's a fairly common statement that product managers should be "the president of the product." In fact, we make that very point in our Practical Product Management seminar on product management. But, with the idea of 'peers' in mind, a better metaphor is parent of the product. Eric Sink has a hilarious talk about parenting as a metaphor for product management. (A blog post on his thoughts is here.) I had dinner with a colleague who apparently misunderstood the concept. She described product management as mother of the product (wait! product managers don't create a product but I digress). She then described "mother" badly. She said mothers should clean up after the children, make their beds, prepare their breakfast and a lunch for school. What? Is this a job description for a mom or a maid? A parent teaches her children to clean up their own messes; teaches them to make their own meals, do their own laundry, do their homework without being nagged about it, balance a checkbook, plan to a budget... a parent teaches a child to be a functioning adult. (Hmmm, with the number of "children" in their 20s and 30s living at home in the U.S., perhaps we haven't done a very good job of this kind of parenting.) Product management is one parent of the product; Development is another. While developers can tell you a product CAN be created, product management decides whether it SHOULD be. While development worries about the product creation, product management worries about the strategy (business) of the product and the marketing (delivery) of the product.
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