PRODUCTHEAD: Enough handwringing already

PRODUCTHEAD: Enough handwringing already

PRODUCTHEAD is a regular newsletter of product management goodness,
curated by Jock Busuttil.

(nice product) #

every PRODUCTHEAD edition is online for you to refer back to


Be involved and interested, but not on the critical path

Talk about the ideas you threw away, in commercial language

Founders are rejecting the generic advice to delegate everything — this evolves the product manager role


The handwringing continues. General sentiment: “Everyone seems to be saying product managers suck. Maybe they’re right?”

Here’s my take: there are always going to be good, bad and meh product managers. Due to a combination of high demand, greater awareness and who knows what else, a ton of people have jumped into product management over the last few years. By definition, the majority of these n00bs are going to suck at product management. That’s not intended as a criticism. WE ALL SUCKED when we started. We have a surplus of suckiness at the moment because of this influx of keen but inexperienced practitioners.

Here’s the thing: it’s okay. Really it is.

Give it a bit of time and some good role models, and many of these newbies will become great and good product managers. Don’t get me wrong, a bunch of them will inevitably become meh or downright terrible product managers — unlike Lake Wobegon, we can’t all be above average. But the important thing is that experience acquired over time will help to rebalance the distribution, hopefully biasing towards good practice.

So let’s not write ourselves off as a profession quite yet. Even in challenging organisations, we can and do still have a positive effect.

We wanted product management to become better known, and we’re succeeding. However, with raised profile comes increased scrutiny. If we have to adapt how we demonstrate the value of what we do in order to continue doing it, then so be it. We ask the same of our teams all the time through experiments and bets; it’s only fair we apply the same rigour to ourselves.

As long as this earnest introspection helps us raise our game, fantastic, let’s continue. When it starts to damage the confidence of otherwise capable product people, that’s the point at which we should put it to one side and concentrate more on what it is we’re trying to achieve and how best we can do so.

Thank you for coming to my TED talk.

For you this week #

General theme: it may seem hard, but you can change things for the better.

First off, straight-talking Jason Knight tells us where we can add value by explaining why we’re not responsible for delivering the products we manage.

This neatly dovetails with Which? head of product Tom Dolan’s recent thoughtful article, which helps to contextualise our profession’s current confidence crisis, and suggests that showing our working more clearly can shift the perception of arrogance.

Then a longer read from Ben Yoskovitz (investor and co-author of Lean Analytics) unpacking some of the reasons why we find ourselves in the current situation and what we can do about it.

Lastly, a collaboration between Melissa Perri and John Cutler which surfaces the questions they had while listening to Brian Chesky on Lenny’s Podcast.

It’s not a coincidence that all four articles I’ve featured this week each analyse the implications of what CEO and co-founder Brian Chesky had to say about how he wants product management to work in Airbnb. Enjoy the read.

Speak to you soon,


what to think about this week

Product managers aren’t responsible for the delivery of their products

There has been a lot of talk recently about the role of product managers in companies, and the value that they bring to the table. Part of this is a continuation of an age-old debate, and part of it has been brought into focus by moves such as Airbnb and Stripe getting rid of product managers (which, of course, neither of them did). Now, I’m no fan of stories of Airbnb’s designers whooping with delight when they thought all the PMs were getting fired, but, on the other hand, we should always be willing to ask ourselves… what are we for?

Continuously remind people why they’re there

[Jason Knight / One Knight In Product]

A plea for product craft: shout about your ‘negative space’

Like many folks loosely grouped under the label “Product Leader”, I’ve been increasingly worried by the light crisis-of-confidence that’s been brewing around the role of a Product Manager over the last while – ranging from Brian Chesky’s restructuring of how he uses the role at AirBnB through to work kicking off in government with ever-shrinking Product involvement.

Some people in wider industry have described this focus away from PMs as “the reckoning”, which I think is a little unfair. Product Management is still an important role, but it’s been a bumpy ride with a few scaling problems.

Also talk about what you shouldn’t be building

[Tom Dolan / Leaning Forward]

The problem with product management

No surprise, it’s a people problem. And a structural one.

Everyone wants to build great products, but we don’t agree on how

[Ben Yoskovitz / Focused Chaos]

The New Airbnb (Lenny’s Podcast) w/Melissa Perri

Melissa and I co-wrote this post to share what questions were going on in our minds as we checked out the podcast. In our experience working with many different companies, we’ve observed diverse situations leading up to what Chesky described, so while listening we constantly found ourselves curious and wanting more details. What else was happening? How did this relate to the broader context?

More questions than answers

[John Cutler & Melissa Perri / The Beautiful Mess]

recent posts

Moving up to a CPO or VP Product role

Stepping up to a Chief Product Officer (CPO) or VP Product role doesn’t so much change what you do. Rather it amplifies everything. This guide lets you know what to expect.

Liberating and terrifying in equal measure

[I Manage Products]

I want to update my pricing strategy. Where do I start?

“My product currently has one tier of per-seat pricing for all customers. I want to change my pricing strategy to cater differently for SMEs and enterprise customers. Where do I start?”

A few pricing concepts to consider + further reading

[I Manage Products]

How do I make my product roadmap a better communication tool?

“My product roadmap is not getting the right information across to other people in my company. In particular, my customer success and marketing teams are struggling to plan their work for upcoming product releases. I’m also not sure how I can show my roadmap’s relationship to the half-yearly OKRs we set. How can I improve it?”

Your product roadmap is a communication tool

[I Manage Products]

can we help you?

Product People is a product management services company. We can help you through consultancy, training and coaching. Just contact us if you need our help!

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Helping people build better products, more successfully, since 2012.

PRODUCTHEAD is a newsletter for product people of all varieties, and is lovingly crafted from — what the …? A strimmer just smashed my f****** window.

Read more from Jock

The Practitioner's Guide to Product Management book cover

The Practitioner's Guide To Product Management

by Jock Busuttil

“This is a great book for Product Managers or those considering a career in Product Management.”

— Lyndsay Denton

Jock Busuttil is a product management and leadership coach, product leader and author. He has spent over two decades working with technology companies to improve their product management practices, from startups to multinationals. In 2012 Jock founded Product People Limited, which provides product management consultancy, coaching and training. Its clients include BBC, University of Cambridge, Ometria, Prolific and the UK’s Ministry of Justice and Government Digital Service (GDS). Jock holds a master’s degree in Classics from the University of Cambridge. He is the author of the popular book The Practitioner’s Guide To Product Management, which was published in January 2015 by Grand Central Publishing in the US and Piatkus in the UK. He writes the blog I Manage Products and weekly product management newsletter PRODUCTHEAD. You can find him on Mastodon, X (formerly Twitter) and LinkedIn.

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