Friday, May 25, 2012

The Love Triangle and Visualizing a Vacation

Early in my career  - I realized that there are really two groups which yank a Product Manager's (PM)  chain - Engineering and (or) Sales. I remember sitting for 14 hours in a meeting debugging a "memory leak" issue for a Japanese Customer...Sales walked away shaking their heads saying - Customer will terminate the contract M-san (killing me softly, if you please) and Engineering giving me a " you are crazy" stare and the comment - You should have pushed back forward 2 months we (Engineering Dude and me) are drinking sake bombs with the very sales team which threatened a contract termination the issue got fixed 4 weeks later than promised (but the customer got the patch on time...thank god for my 4 weeks buffer)...and the customer provided us with a strong reference which helped us win multiple other deals.. Here are the lessons I learnt from that exercise -
  1.  A PM is never in control but it's ok to pretend to be in control
  2. Two relationships in the product world impact a PM profoundly - your relationship with the guy that sells your product and the guy who builds your product...
  3. There is usually a mismatch between what is being delivered ( by Engineering) and what is being demanded (by Sales). A PM pretends to have a magic wand which magically makes all things map and match (yeah! right!) -- Jokes apart, it is a balancing act to ensure that Sales is able to sell what Engineering builds.
  4. However, despite all the chaos -- there  needs to be a  hunger, a passion and a need to be that someone who drives the team to  build and create something that solves a key customer need (a product manager) vs. someone who acts as the caretaker for release planning by simply gathering up defects, urgent enhancement requests, leftovers from the previous versions (a product janitor)
  5. Reality however is if we get caught up in the mundane  day-to-day tactics we sometimes lose sight of the bigger picture...the constant squabbles between Sales and Engineering with the PM playing mediator brings forth an "unloved child" (of course the product or service)
In the words of Steve Jobs " You need a very product-oriented culture… Lots of companies have great engineers and smart sales people. …..there needs to be some gravitational force that pulls it all together" 
My spin on that is I believe the product manager is that gravitational pull -- the person who understands what Sales and customers are telling them and being able to translate them into tangible requirements for Engineering...when this is achieved it is no longer an unholy love triangle but an unbeatable triad ( negative connotations here!)
Leaving work aside for a I sat today staring at the computer - eyes burning, back aching, the neck spasms threatening to come back, the rumbles in the tummy reminding me that there was a dinner to be cooked. I see the Facebook update from friends galore on trips to Bahamas, Hawaii, India get the drift. There is no vacation in my short-term planning horizon, so I close my eyes and visualize wonderful cruise from last August...the smell of the sea, the sumptuous 7 course meals, the whales and dolphins cavorting by the ship, the bear cub and creek seething with Salmon, the serene Mendenhall Glacier, the awe-inspiring fjords...when I open my eyes I feel refreshed and ready to cook dinner...I could use a real vacation real soon though!

No comments:

Post a Comment