Do you have the Right Product Manager for the Right Products?

 In Product Management, Product Organization

Much has been written about product portfolio planning but how many leaders of product organizations think about the need to tune their product managers to the products at hand? After all, the product portfolio is fluid and changes over time. When you look at your product organization, do you consider how your products and markets have changed since you initially hired that “just right” product manager for a certain product or line of business?

In order to get it right, you need to match the product manager’s capabilities and personality on at least two key dimensions: where the product is on the adoption curve and where the market for the product is in its lifecycle. It’s not enough to recognize that the characteristics of a passionate evangelist will map well to starting something new or that a harvester mentality will relish stewarding the business of a mature product. There’s a bit more nuance to the assessment of personality and fit. Think about it this way: If you have a new product in a mature market some evangelism may be required as part of its launch but this is not quite the same as introducing a new product into a brand new market. That truly requires missionary selling. At times, even in a new market with a track record of a few years, you may be delivering a mature product where the harvesting skills look the same as in a cash cow business.

By the way, I never underestimate the importance of aligning personality and what motivates a person to the product set. Think about the type of “hard work” your product managers like to do. For a more technical product you do need someone with an affinity for technology – not a technical degree necessarily – but at a minimum someone who is curious about how things work and can hold their own with engineers or developers. In all cases, the successful product manager should know what they don’t know and be able to think on their feet. When you do your product organization health check (which I recommend annually), take the time for a close look at the fit of your product managers to the products they manage.  Is it time to conduct a Product Organization Health Check? Here's the checklist you'll need. Click To Tweet

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