Great product managers are known for the products they build, says Pravin Jadhav
Having spent almost 12 years in building, managing, and deploying large-scale products, Pravin Jadhav, fondly known as PJ, is a go-to name for product management in India.
He says the supply side of perfect product managers has not been so pretty in the industry, despite the natural demand for the right product managers nearly doubling globally over the last five years.
"A successful and well-optimised product manager is known to increase a company’s profits by more than 34 percent," Pravin says.
Companies still struggle to hire a great product manager, and even the most veteran of executives scuffle hard to reach that optimal pinnacle. When product managers around the world are searching for the secret sauce of gaining the coveted product management wisdom, the essence of it all lies in the simplest of things.
There is no detailed manuscript on how to become a great product manager. There is just one simple practice, Pravin adds.
What do unsuccessful product managers do?
Steve Jobs, during his speech to the MIT graduates in 1992, described unsuccessful or disruptive product managers as product consultants. In other words, your growth as a product manager comes to a halt when you hop around from one product to another, learning different aspects of a product’s lifecycle from multiple sources.
You may be learning about customer insights on product A, work with payments in product B, talk about transactions in product C, and analyse the growth prospects of product D. You did check all the typical boxes of a product’s lifecycle, but your skills did not form on a single product.
The founder of Applecalled this a trait of a consultant. This individual comes and goes during the product building and launching phase, but never stays to own it up. Such a product manager remains oblivious to the mistakes he/she made with a single product. He/she does not face the repercussions of his/her initial decisions or assumptions.
Skill-wise, this product manager may not leave any room for questions, but there will always remain a huge void in his/her profile that will hinder the transition from mediocre to greatness.
What do great product managers do?
They start working with a product from day zero, stick with it during its entire building phase, and remain in office even after the launch to face the consequences of the recommendations head-on, to further suggest modifications and redesigns.
Great product managers pick up one product and then talk to the customers surrounding it, take insights from stakeholders, and sit with the product and design team. All the brainstorming and analysis happens with that product only.
They also collect data, learn from the mistakes of other similar products, and focus on the market demand around that specific product.
However, the job does not get done after the product’s launch. Great product managers test the market’s acceptance of the product. They explore facts and data, looking into everything that resonated with the target customers, and what all might be improved further. Total product failure teaches such PMs more than bits and pieces of success, and they stick around to redesign the product from scratch again, if necessary.
Unlike consultants, the entire journey of a single product provides better insights to PMs.
While working with one product, PMs also learn that their assumptions are often not the customer’s expectations. This is the true catalyst for the growth of any product manager, as it is quite easy to become self-centric while building and nurturing something as part of one’s own.
Great product managers learn to value their own ideas as much as others, and this leads to the evolution that almost all PMs desire to have.
The answer is simple
Avoid learning everything from five different products over five years. Instead, work on one product for five years and learn everything. Talk with customers constantly and stare at data when there is nothing else to do. Sit with analysts to bounce ideas off each other, and always look to build a product that gives value to your customers instead of you.
Surely, one can work on five different products, but he/she will not see through every one of them until their individual success points. Once you leave midway, all your lessons return to square one. In short, great product managers are known for the products they build. They own their products completely.