We manage relationships and keep the vision

As the medium post by Mike Atherton, managing product is actually managing relationships.

In my organization, I talk to people, all sorts of people here. Each one holds a different perspective and forms unique relationship with the product. Broaden Atherton’s argument, everyone hires the product to solve their unique problems even for internal departments.

One of the important skills for product manager that didn’t mention or at least not stressed enough by the industry is the ability to get buy in from various stakeholders. We have to manage not only relationship between the business and its customers, but also various relationships within the business. BD and Sales always wanted to signup more vendors or memberships while customer support constantly complained about toxic customers. Marketing and community managers fight for screen real estate to promote things most important for them. UI and developers cannot stay align or the transition effect while QA annoys both parties no less.

It is not I am too narcissistic to put myself in the center of all these. But I do often find myself into the circumstances that requests benefit one party inevitably make another less productive. My job is to understand, analyse, prioritise, experiment, last but not the least, get commitment and balance from all parties without lossing the long term vision.

Isn’t that the CEO’s job someone may argue. Yes, when the CEO is a product person, he is the best to fit into this role and resolve conflicts and drive the organization towards the common goal most effectively. This story cannot be illustrated more vividly by the up and down stories of Apple. When the board replace a product oriented CEO with a sales and marketing oriented one, long term vision is replaced by short term financial reports. With the return of Jobs, the company find its mission again.

End with a quote from my boss and an insightful friends:

Often the ones who stick to the company’s vision are the product managers