As a follow up to our collection of Product Management Tools last week, we asked 10 product pros in the PH community what it takes to be a great product manager. Here’s what they had to say:
A good PM is a scientist, armchair psychologist, and janitor in cross functional teams. Ever curious, open to new ideas, perceptive, listens, and evolves through time. Someone who helps their team understands what it is they should build and how to build it as efficiently as possible while keeping everyone as happy as possible.
— Bo Ren
A positive net promoter score from the engineers and designers you have previously worked with.”
— Dave Morin
Great product managers think of themselves as partners with engineering (dev, devops, qa) and design. They think of building a product as a continuous cycle of learning, convincing, documenting, refining. At the heart of PM is knowing how to obtain data, decide what data is relevant, and acting on that data to globally maximize engineering efforts. The most important trait of PM is empathy—empathy for engineering, business, and most of all customers of all types.
For a lot more on this see this post from almost a decade ago (note at Microsoft “product manager” is marketing and “program manager” means SV product manager…go figure.)
— Steve Sinofsky
Flat out, great product managers have excellent communication skills. They’re constantly in contact with their team, peers, executives, and all other stakeholders. Whenever prompted, they can clearly and concisely supply their team’s elevator pitch outlining the vision for their product, what they’re currently working on, why it will be impactful, and how they’ll measure success.
— Zal Billimoria
Good product managers have product spidey-sense. They know intuitively what makes for great products. They’re not always right, but ignore their instincts at your own risk.
— Ken Norton
I think a good product manager is Customer Driven. That means they don’t just look at the numbers to make decisions; they look for the story behind why a number is what it is. They also get their team involved in really understanding who their users are and the jobs they’re trying to get done with the product. They should be a heat seeking missile for customer pain and the root cause of feature requests.
The best product managers are the right balance of a social scientist and an executive. These people are able to humbly understand inputs like teammates, data, the market, customers, and one’s own intuition yet at the end of the day, execute a decisive and thoughtful path forward for the team.
— Jason Shah
Really good PMs are capable of identifying and moving the key pieces of a product forward, even with a thousand pieces of feedback/ideas/technical challenges flying by. Great PMs can deliver clarity by sensing an opportunity, envisioning the ideal outcome, and then defining the steps needed to get there.
— Adam Kazwell
PMs already have countless things on their own plate: research, vision, user stories, workflows, prioritizing work, etc. But the best PMs (especially in startups) know when and how to jump in to keep things moving along smoothly. That can mean helping the devs with documentation or front-end tweaks, helping designers wireframe, running usability tests, writing copy, answering support emails, digging into analytics, QAing, the list goes on.
— Jessica Barnett
I’m from the Ben Horowitz school that a Product Manager is the CEO of their product. In other words, you’re ultimately responsible for having a winning product. No excuses.
— Sara Mauskopf