• How Product Managers Lose the Trust of Engineers

    As a product manager, your job is to help your company take advantage of a market opportunity. You can almost split the job in half: the outside half, about understanding the market, and the internal half, about enabling your team. This post is about the internal half of the job, and how I’ve seen things go haywire with one of the most important groups: the engineers.

    I started my career as a software engineer, so I naturally empathize with this group. But since I switched to product management a few years ago, I’m also acutely aware of the challenges engineers can pose. There’s a natural tension between PMs—who always want more things faster—and engineers who are on the hook to build and maintain systems. You can’t solve this tension; it’s inherent to the responsibilities and cultures of these roles. So your best bet is to negotiate it from a position of mutual trust and respect.

    Unfortunately, there are some dangerous pitfalls that can undermine that trust and respect. The ones below are especially pernicious because they’re tempting.

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  • How (and why) to document the assumptions underlying your product

    Making a product people want is hard. Successful products often look like strokes of genius or incredible luck – things you can’t just buy. Wouldn’t it be great if there were a way to make consistent, fast progress toward product success?

    Turns out there is. A disciplined approach to product management works, and if you look behind most “overnight success” stories, you’ll find years of disciplined effort. And while every product expert will have their own set of tricks for each part, the essential principles of disciplined product management are so simple, I can list them right here:

    • Know that to succeed, your product must be desirable, feasible, and viable.
    • Identify your assumptions – the working theories of how your product will be all of these.
    • Iteratively test and refine your assumptions.
    • Prioritize testing your most prevalent and uncertain assumptions.

    In this post, I’ll explain how these pieces fit together to enable a disciplined approach to some of the biggest challenges faced by ambitious companies.

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