More than a decade of grousing about product management

Is Product Management like Winston Wolf?

I solve Problems

Product managers handle day-to-day firefighting and task switching, while juggling a backlog and limited resources.

As the Dude was preparing for a bodacious Thanksgiving feast (prime rib as the main course, cooked on the grill), he ran one of his favorite movies, Pulp Fiction. If you have seen the movie, you are familiar with the scene where Jules and Vincent need to deal with a headless body. The person who is called to “fix” this is a gentleman named “Winston Wolf”.

What follows is a parachute in, motivate the troops to handle the caca, and then get out of the problem. This reminds me of product management. While we all like to believe that our best attributes are our experience with Markets, technologies, and long-term strategic planning, one of the most visible traits is a come in, take charge, and kick ass on the day-to-day problems in an organization.

Every time the Dude interviews for a job, every frickin’ time, almost all of the jostling and banter during the process is around the strategic planning, and long-range tasks that you will be expected to do. However, once he accepts the job, it almost always morphs into a firefighting role. There is a huge backlog to work through. There are issues in support. There is discord between development, manufacturing and support that you need to moderate. The sales team has come to rely on “Product Management” to be the voice of the Factory in key sales situations (and EVERY deal is a key sales situation). You get the picture; everybody wants a piece of the Product Manager’s time.

So, more often than not, a product manager’s life becomes a hectic schedule of task switching and failed long term goals. If a Product Manager doesn’t block out time EVERY day for lunch, that slot will be consumed.

The Dude no longer is surprised by any of this. It is truly how product managers live. Furthermore, the Dude has observed that almost universally the number of bodies allocated to product management is always about 3/4 what is required to accomplish all the goals.

Written by

A crusty veteran from the product management trenches. Plenty of salty language, references to cannabis, and a connoisseur of White Russian cocktails

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Written by pmdude