Year End Thoughts

It's been a while, and the Dude has a short list of product management topics to air before the end of the year. So, for your enjoyment during this holiday season, please read on

The Dude has been busy, and that has impacted his time to write even quick posts. He hasn’t posted since before Thanksgiving (US Holiday). How does he know that? Well, he began drafting a post to talk about what he is thankful for, and never got beyond the first paragraph. So the Dude is sorry he didn’t wish you all a happy Thanksgiving.

Now, I have a few short topics to cover.


The Dude’s team is looking for a new person to join. We are hiring a contractor, more of a try before you buy than a part time temporary worker. Alas, this is becoming par for the course lately.

He has been screening candidates, and this time we are trying a different tack. The Dude’s old boss insisted that we hire deep domain specialists, and they have - predictably - not done well in a product management role.

This time we are prioritizing product management and business skills. So far, the recruiters we use have been, uh, shitty at finding these people.

But, finally we got some good candidates, and one who will win.

Coda: The Dude works in tech, and he prefers to find qualified women, and people of color. He hates that he works in a total sausage fest, and that we need to consciously try harder to find candidates that are more diverse. Don’t @ the Dude, he knows that there are kick ass women and people of color, and he wants to work with them.

Tools vs Process

Where the Dude works, we have a disastrous history of undocumented processes, and active sabotage of attempts to instill discipline. He old boss was a major disruptor, who wanted her team to be the “deciders” and the “top of the pyramid” in the org, but she also wanted to blow up all processes like the PLC, approvals, and stage gates.

In the way back time, we traded a customized project management solution for Aha!, the roadmapping tool …

And then we tried to force the Aha tool to be a project management system by bolting on a lot of custom fields, and workflows in the back end.

Needless to say, it failed. It was a square peg in a round hole. It sucked.

Fast forward 2 years, and there is a grass roots effort to re-introduce Aha.

We still have no documented processes.

We have various groups building their own tracking tools (mostly spreadsheets), and some shadow processes.

And it is looking like other teams are trying to overlay project management functionality on a roadmapping tool. Again.
This is fine…

Problem vs. Solution

As the Dude is looking to help in the recruiting process, he has had the opportunity to look at similar job requisitions and postings to crib good verbiage for inclusion.

And he noticed something that he should have been aware of. In Tech, it seems that it has become standard practice that product managers MUST have a B.Sc. or higher computer science degree.

The Dude has a problem with this. The computer science degree, and prior experience as a developer puts you firmly in the world of “solutions”.

I bet you can guess why this trips the Dude’s spider sense.

Yes, it is because product management is, and should be, in problem space.

In fact, the Dude’s short summary of product management is:

Product Management is to find a problem, that enough people have, that we can address (or fix), and that a large enough pool of those people with the problem, are willing to give us money to solve that problem, enough money that we can afford to run a business.

Note that not one facet of that is coding, or computer science, or software developer skills.

And that bothers the Dude.

The Dude blames this on the romanticization of the role of product manager. The casting it as a super mensch, a glorious role, and the influence of the APM program(s) at the big tech companies is who the Dude blames for this.

Why? Developers, computer scientists, live in solution space. Product management happens in problem space. We find the problem, define it, map it, determine who has the problem, figure out if they will pay for it, and how many will they buy. You know, all the real product manager value adds.

Sure, you can be a senior developer, and then get an MBA and be able to live in problem space. But why would you?

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