Someone Killed My Baby. Turns out it was Me.

I just got an email announcing a project I poured my heart, soul, and midnights into for a few years is being canceled. Or worse, the new idea is being scrapped and the predecessor just got a sorry facelift.  I’ve sinced moved on to bigger and better things, but why couldn’t we change the world?

I read all the books, wrote all the fun Product Manage-y documents, and cheer-lead the team with strident optimism, but it still failed. For everyone who calls themselves a Product Manager, please listen closely.

You need to be tough.

If you aren’t willing to break down a door and scream that THIS IS BROKEN AND IT ISN’T WORKING, you don’t deserve to be in a position of authority. I can count many times when I knew the project was doomed, yet didn’t see any way out:

  1. CEO cancels periodic meetings, preferring an ‘as needed’ basis. Translation: you have no support until something is on fire.
  2. The team misses four milestone dates in a row and responds by not trying to estimate work because ‘code is more art than science’. Translation: This might take three weeks, or three years. Go be useless until we’re done.
  3. Despite having an internal press release and phased rollout plan, engineering and new management keeps telling you there is no Go To Market plan. Translation: People aren’t listening.
  4. Despite feature locking concerns, engineering decides that using a certain framework is the only way to go. Three months later they complain that new features are impossible to build in this framework. Translation: You should have argued harder.

One of the reasons Product Management is so nebulous is that it includes two types of professionals: Those who wish to run businesses, and those who are promoted because they are just pliable conduits for executive authority. If you’re the first, you’ll need to be mean enough to stop a failed effort before it gets worse. If you’re the second, update your resume.

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