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Feb 17, 2023

The 5 types of Product Managers

While working with many companies around the world, our SPCT Eduardo Alvim got to develop a very special passion for Product Management. He is really interested in how companies build their products, how they reach the customers, how are they used (or not), and how are they maintained after deployed. Read the blog where he shares his experience.

Unfortunately, given what Iโ€™ve seen in the market, not many companies have a great discipline of product management. In most of the cases, these product managers and companies lack understanding of how to create a great product, that customers will love. Leading to all the sort of wastes one can imagine: massive amount of underused products, wasted development effort, investments that could have been redirected to more strategic initiatives. And the list could go on and on....


When teaching my classes around the world, I explain myself:

A product misconceived or output oriented instead of outcome oriented, will end up by making changing your office coffee machine. And not for better!
Eduardo Alvim

Here the non-extensive list of steps:

  1. Invest an interesting amount of money in a product that is misconceived or outcome oriented.
  2. This money will not generate the expected results and wonโ€™t come back in a form of revenue, impacting the financial result of your company.
  3. Next quarter (or year) โ€œtownhall meetingโ€, the CEO or equivalent of your company will announce the strategic objective to reduce costs. The infamous โ€œDo more with lessโ€.
  4. The first guilty one will be that coffee machine of yours. The one you are always complaining about the taste of the coffee served. Meanwhile, the poor one is laying there, always available to be used by you and your colleagues.
  5. That Friday (yes, bad news is always coming on Fridays), you receive an email from the HR director (or VP) celebrating they will deploy new coffee machines in all units.
  6. That will bring more quality coffee to all the employees because quality for our people is priceless!
  7. Your old bud crappy coffee is back, in a โ€œIโ€™m even worseโ€ version of itself. But now, the super ultra-mega coffee machine has lots of colored buttons so you can have โ€œgourmet coffeeโ€ options. But you must pay for them!

When you reach the 7th step, be careful. It means, things are going south!

Itโ€™s time to turn the ship!

Aรฟe, Captain!

Who, in this case, would be the captain?
If you thought about Product Managers, you are 100% correct!

  • Product Managers have the unique ability to influence everything that is done, the way itโ€™s done and how itโ€™s done. Need an example: Defining a feature for a new product in a particular way, can influence on how the teams will arrange themselves to develop and deploy it. The same happens within the same team.
  • Iโ€™m not (much) pretentious to want to teach PMs on how to define great products, but over my years observing, helping, and discussing with a huge amount of very competent people, I could identify 5 types of dysfunctional Product Managers within organizations, that will turn your coffee machine into a โ€œgourmetโ€ one.

From now on, Iโ€™m going to refer Product Managers as PMs. You know: for the sake of optimization and thingsโ€ฆ

1. The Builder: A Feature Factory approach

The most seen type of PM. This professional is always available to suggest a new feature, a new product that will be loved by all the customers. Without any empirical data, no customer survey whatsoever, the Builder will lead hordes of avid teams for doing something different.

Both will never question the PM. Will never require understanding โ€œthe whyโ€. After all, the PM must know what is doing and has all the trust from these teams.

Then the development starts, itโ€™s a great party! Tons of meetings to define the technology to be used, the dependencies between teams, the risks, the constellation of partners that will be required on this effort.

Itโ€™s amazing the amount of work generated and billable hours. Lots of micro-projects are starting to pop-up so everyone can unite, re-unite, and disband as quick as Buzz Lightyear goes above and beyond!

Amazing demos of the new functionalities are arranged with great feedback from Business Owners, managers saluting their team members and a great ambiance of confidence and trust is built.

Then, there is the release to the market.

Radio silence.

Business managers are calling their preferred and most loyal customers to talk about the new functionalities and how the product has now been elevated to a whole different level. A handful of them respond positively and want to try. Not anyone else.

What was once a promising star product is now relegated to ostracism. But it was a good idea though.

Next time, we will make it better. I have a great idea, says the PM!

2. The Passionate โ€“ Iโ€™m in love with this solution. Problem? Which problem?

This is the tale of John, the PM. John has been a PM for many years now. He is brilliant. A great mind, one would say about him.

John has many qualities, among them, he is very respected in the whole company, because on the back of his ideas, the company could thrive over the last decade, at least. John, lately, has been having these out-of-the-box ideas, which are great, in fact. He is mastering the ancient art of having a vision: Seeing things that no one else can see.

Last January was not different. John had another great vision for a product and, naturally, he got approval immediately without even having to ask for it. He got excited. Assembled a few of his best work fellas and they started working. After a few iterations, theyโ€™ve presented the first version of the new product. It was beautiful!

As I heard, it was the best user experience ever. They considered it to be Johnโ€™s masterpiece.

In his head, John repeated that famous sentence: โ€œParla!โ€ Little John was in love.

But as any passion, it comes and goes in a fraction of seconds. The product didnโ€™t correspond all the love John has demonstrated repeatedly.

They decided to split apart and follow different paths.

John still thinking about it, late at night, completely alone. Heartbroken. It was difficult to breathe. Then John said what any person who had a big passion like that could ever say in this situation:

Why? Why??

And he found the problem.

Find part 2 of this article with three other types of Product Managers very soon....

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Implementing SAFe (SPC) - Virtual

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Written by Eduardo Alvim, SAFe Program Consultant Trainer (SPCT)