Product management is a team sport

I got a lot of things wrong when I became a #productmanager.

I was asked to take over a product that was rapidly declining in revenues and relevance.

Before that I was an engineering manager who had done well.

Like many who are promoted rapidly in a fast growing organization.

I was aggressive, sometimes arrogant and sometimes ignorant; taking over a declining product in a new role was daunting.

The product had been around a few years and had some large customers…

Going through customer complaints and bug logs was scary

There was too much to do, not enough resources and certainly not enough time…

Initially I played defense.

Trying to teach everyone how the product really worked…

Then I tried to get into engineering details; that was my comfort zone, but the team pushed back.

Giving updates in monthly reviews was downright depressing.

I wondered if I should change role or leave.

Somewhere along the way the marketing manager told me that he went to product training sessions for customers.

It was a great place to learn he suggested.

I asked to tag along.

That was an eye-opening experience

People were excited about the power but overwhelmed by the complexity.

I loved the flexibility for techies but hated the clunky interface.

Product was easy to mis-configure.

It was not built for business users.

And most importantly it was no longer stable enough to use.

From that month onwards I sought out every opportunity to attend training sessions, spent a lot of time talking with technical support, listened to Q&As, started gathering all the information, got on the calls with irate customers, listened and apologized.

It was humbling, the product reputation had hit bottom.

Out of all the listening and analysis of issues, a picture started emerging…

And a new release was born.

It was called the “enterprise readiness” release.

The focus would be on making the product stable, reliable and of higher quality.

New feature scope was virtually eliminated.

I went about selling this to leadership, engineering, support and then back to training sessions for customers and consultants.

It took a few months, but things started turning around.

I learnt to listen and bring people along.

The product followed….

I then realized that #productmanagement is a team sport

What was your early experience as a PM?

What did you get right? What did you get wrong?