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The Paradox of “Too Much Product Management”

There’s an endless world out there with talks, articles and debates about Product Management. Everyone doing Product seems to secretly (or not so secretly) want to be the next “big name in Product” with all the best shortlists, pretty diagrams, strongly argued quotes and provocative thoughts. All in the name of “doing product management right” and ironically it seems, we end up doing the opposite.

Product Management needs a change — one where we prioritise attentiveness and listening until the end, instead of shoving knowledge down people’s throats. A change where new ideas can emerge and where the unknown is still our friend. To achieve this, first, we need to tackle the paradoxes we’ve created.

Paradox 1: Our ways of working have become standard and aren’t questioned anymore.

With this, the core of Product Management seems to be lost: experimentation, failure, adaptation, growth, and continuous learning. Although we claim that learning from mistakes is valuable, many of our best practices inadvertently discourage mistakes. As a result, the next generation of Product Managers assumes that there is one “right” way to do things when in reality, this is far from the truth.

Why are we experimenting only with features, not with the way we’re working?

Paradox 2: No focus when our backlogs are overflowing.

With all of the content we put out there (and it’s a lot) we’re creating a lack of focus with too much, too often, and often too simplified information. At the end of the day, the work needs to be done, not only theorised. And with all to read, listen and talk about, how would they manage to learn the craft?

Paradox 3: We’re preaching to the choir & forget to listen.

You do not elevate a Product Manager by telling them what to do, you do so by helping them figure things out on their own. And with all the know-how everywhere, we seem to have forgotten the art of listening. Listening to the end, asking questions and truly supporting each other’s thinking processes.

As leaders in this crazy ever changing world of Product, we need to encourage new ideas, free thinking and our ways of working to be questioned, tried out and falsified. How else can we call ourselves Product Managers?

We need to let the next generation do their own discovery work, make their own mistakes and find new ways to create value. We should help by creating experimental and curious environments for our next in line to thrive in, not tell them what to do.

So, for the next generation maybe just start here:

At the heart of Product Management lies acknowledging what “we don’t know”, from there we operate and it’s not brain surgery. It doesn’t require complex or intricate processes. Rather, we strive to have an open, curious, and explorative mindset to deliver maximum value to our customers and businesses.

And there is a very simple methodology you can apply here — using the W’s. Why, when, where, what and who.

  • Why is conversion dropping?

  • Who is affected by this?

  • When does it happen?

  • And so on…

So, embrace the unknown and learn as you go. You do not have to read every book, listen to all the podcasts and know 100 ways of prioritising. Stay open-minded and curious, listen to the people around you and ask a lot of questions, and the rest will fall into place.


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