Product managers make GREAT dinner guests

Product managers make GREAT dinner guests

Now that I’ve started up a product management consultancy, I’ve found myself having to explain a bit more often what a product manager actually is.  There are, of course, eminently more articulate and relevant descriptions available of what being a product manager means.  But as it’s a Monday and we’re all in need of more frivolity in our lives, I’ve concluded that product managers would make excellent dinner guests.  Here’s why:

We’re polite and appreciative of anyone who helps us out (or cooks us dinner).

We’ll get on easily with the other guests in the interests of making the dinner party a success, even if they’re ‘characters’ (read: self-obsessed sociopaths). We’ll also make a point of making the quieter guests feel included and valued.

We’ll manage to find common areas of interest to grease the wheels of conversation, be curious about other guests’ specialisms and still be able to offer a considered opinion on topics we’re not as familiar with.

We’re more than willing to roll up our sleeves and help out in the kitchen if the host is running late, and when we do, we fit in seamlessly with their plans rather than trying to take over.

We’ll be appreciative of the meal, even if something caught fire unintentionally, and ensure the host is sufficiently sedated after the stress and hard work of preparing something they’ve never cooked before.

After the main event’s over, we’ll help with the clearing up.

We’ll also take the hint and avoid overstaying our welcome, and be likely to be invited back.

P.S. The ‘dinner party’ is a development project, the ‘host’ is the development team, the ‘other guests’ are stakeholders.

My laboured analogy does however break down somewhat because my friends rarely let me dictate the menu when they invite me round for dinner. But you’d be far too polite to point that out, right?

Update: for a slightly more serious take on what it means to be a product manager, take a look at the follow-on post.

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Jock is a freelance head of product, author and conference speaker. He has spent nearly two decades working with technology companies to improve their product management practices, from startups to multinationals. His clients include the BBC, University of Cambridge, and the UK's Ministry of Justice and Government Digital Service (GDS).In 2012 Jock founded Product People Limited, a product management consultancy and training company. He is also the author of the popular book The Practitioner's Guide to Product Management and the blog I Manage Products.

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4 Comments on “Product managers make GREAT dinner guests

  1. Absolutely, while it’s sometimes difficult to pin down what a product manager actually is (see also this follow-up article: http://wp.me/p1otXW-w6), having the right mindset, values and emotional intelligence is core.

    Add in the necessary professional competence and ability to assimilate and derive insight from vast swathes of information, and that person is well on the way to becoming a quality product manager.

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