Product Management Today
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  • Writer's pictureBernard Katz

Summary of the Relationship Series: When the Wind is Fair

As a surfer, I am at the mercy of the wind. The basic natural phenomenon of wind strength and direction has a direct impact on my life. At a practical level, the wind governs if I surf or not and how much I spend on petrol to get to various surf locations. At a deeper level, the wind influences my mood and thus my relationships with those closest to me. When the wind blows strong from the wrong direction, I am on edge, I get fidgety and annoy those around me. When the wind is fair, and the waves are good I am uplifted. There is a sense that anything is possible.

Relationships in product development are like the wind to a surfer. They are powerful forces that cannot be seen or touched but can be felt intensely. Relationships influence the decisions we make. Basic decisions, such as with whom to eat lunch to more complex decisions about roadmap priorities. They fill the space between us and influence our moods and our thoughts. Like the wind they are difficult to control but when they are fair, anything can be achieved.

In the Relationship Series I have explored the relationships between the Product Manager and other role-players in the product development environment. Over the past two-months I have dug deep into my experiences to try unpack the complex web of human emotions, egos, insecurities, and personalities that go into developing a great product. I have identified different challenges in these relationships, and I have tried to provide some solutions. Let’s now relook at some of these challenges and solutions.

The relationships in the world of product development can be complex. Visionary leaders become anxious if they sense their vision isn’t clearly understood. Software engineers protest that they are not included in solution development. Delivery consultants are frustrated when they perceive the voice of the customer is being ignored. Different product managers see the world very differently based on our variety of educational and career experiences.

As a product manager we have to consider each of these relationship challenges. We need to become the co-visionary leader so that we no longer just deliver the product, but we are part of the vision, and the vision is part of us. We should put effort into understanding and most importantly clearly communicating the business challenges. In this way, a software engineer is no longer a reluctant partner but a solution partner who is willing and able to develop great products. For the delivery consultant, if we provide as much support as possible when new products are first implemented, we may find a partner who is as dedicated to the improvement of our product as we are. Finally for our fellow product managers, it’s all about understanding your colleagues’ areas of expertise and areas of vulnerability. Most importantly, understanding that we may have the same job title, but we are not a homogenous group. We are diverse and that is our real strength.

I started the People of Product Management blog to provide an overview of the landscape of human interactions in the product management space. The Relationship Series is the first series in the blog and its main focus is on the one-to-one relationships experienced by product managers. Through this process, of writing the Relationship Series, I have realised the most important aspect is just the simple fact that we gave these relationships some thought. We understood that they exist and acknowledge that, like the wind they have a significant impact on our lives and that has an impact on the products we build.

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