Lead on Purpose

Promoting Leadership Principles in Product Management

Everyone is a product manager

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Yes, that’s right, as I see it everyone is a product manager. 

I know some of you who hold the title of “Product Manager” might cringe at the thought of me calling everyone a product manager. You have spent years learning, working and driving to become market experts, and have accumulated significant experience releasing products and solutions.

So why do I assert that everyone is a product manager? Because every person is responsible for managing his or her own contribution to the world. This contribution is, in a sense, the product they provide to the world — the product called “Me.”

The seeds for this idea were planted back in 1997 when I read the Fast Company article “The Brand Called You” by Tom Peters. In this article Peters described how the focus of business had long been on the big brands and the “behemoth companies” that spent millions building brand awareness. But that focus on the big brands was starting to change. “The good news — and it is largely good news — is that everyone has a chance to stand out. Everyone has a chance to learn, improve, and build up their skills. Everyone has a chance to be a brand worthy of remark.”

Most people probably don’t think of themselves as a product manager — perhaps engineer, accountant, salesperson, executive or some other title fits more comfortably. When it comes to creating your own success, the ‘product’ metaphor is useful. Here are a few ways to manage and improve your “product” more effectively:

  • Do market research: Discover your strengths and talents. Find out where you can make the biggest difference and add the most value to the world.
  • Create requirements: Create a list of requirements. Do an honest evaluation and come up with a list of things you need to succeed in your desired market (or job). Make a commitment to improving in each area.
  • Define your roadmap: With a solid understanding of your strengths and unique abilities, write your ‘roadmap’ to success. Define your goals and write a plan to achieve them.
  • Develop a Win/Loss attitude: This is similar to a win-win attitude, but with a measure of humility that allows you to learn from failures. Everyone willing to try new things will have setbacks and will even fail at times. Seek to learn from every experience.
  • Launch your product: Don’t hesitate to try new things or to take on new responsibilities. Products that churn in “development” cannot take off. Don’t be afraid to take the next step.

These are just a few of the areas you can use product management to improve your own ‘product.’ Art Petty said it well in a post about the pursuit of your own potential: “You work hard to manage your own brand.” Hard work and focus are vital to successful products.

Mark Sanborn writes that the essential adjective for brand success is ‘interesting.’ He says you need to make your brand interesting or people will not want to buy it. The same can be said about your ‘product.’ You need to build your skills and personality so that you catch the eye of others who are looking for what you can provide. If you are interesting to them they will want what you have to offer; they will pay money for your product.


The Product Management Perspective: Product managers already know how to create great software and hardware products. Use these same methods to improve your own career. Spend some time on improving your own ‘product.’

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3 thoughts on “Everyone is a product manager

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention Everyone is a product manager « Lead on Purpose -- Topsy.com

  2. I love the perspective that everyone is a Product Manager and your suggestions for improving your “product” were excellent. Thank you.

    • Connie, thanks for your reply. If we will always take the perspective that we are a “product” and work to improve ourselves (regardless of how things are going at any give time) we’ll be much better off.

      -Michael

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