Are you thinking like a Product Management Leader (a leader of other product managers)?

Not sure? Read on…

When you’re a Product Manager, you’re working diligently to create an awesome product. You’re also working within the product management ‘machine’ provided to you – you’re using guidelines, tools, templates, best practice, and product management processes. 

When you’re a Product Management Leader, you’re working to create an awesome product management team and system – a scalable product management ‘machine’ that delivers awesome products.

A simplistic analogy is a toy airplane factory. As a product manager, you’re concerned with working in the factory and creating a great airplane. As a product management leader, you’re concerned with staffing and leading a whole factory of competent product managers. You need to provide them with leadership, vision, guidance, coaching, education, processes, and tools. 

As a leader, your viewpoint becomes holistic – you’re interested in people, systems, processes, interactions, and repeatable outcomes within the org. Your real ‘product’ becomes the entire product management function.

The perspective difference between product team leaders and product managers

Product Manager
(of a product / service)
Product Management Leader
(of a team / org / dept / function)
So what?
CharterYou have a charter that explains what you do, so your cross-functional product teams know what to expect – and what they need to provide to deliver a successful product.You have a charter to help your team and other stakeholders know what your function does, what it stands for, what to expect from product managers, and how to get the best from you and the team.If the charter isn't clear, people don't understand what you're trying to achieve or the value that you and your team bring to the organization.
VisionYou have a clear vision for your product that helps to inspire your teams and customers – it drives your product strategy, roadmaps, and outcomes.You have a clear vision for your product management function that helps to inspire your teams and stakeholders – it drives the changes needed in your people, org, processes, and products needed to deliver on company strategy and win in the market.Your 'product' is really the whole product management machine – the function or org. You need to think holistically about improving all the elements to create an engaged, competent team that can deliver products that deliver company strategy.
StrategyYou create a product strategy that helps your product to win in the market and hit KPIs aligned with company objectives.You create, shape, and facilitate a product strategy process that product managers can use to deliver products aligned with company strategy.If you don't shape a process, strategy creation will be haphazard or non-existent. You need to coach your team to understand the company strategy and how to link that to meaningful product strategy.
ProcessesYou 'use' the processes in place to get your job done.You 'own, create and shape' processes to help your product managers get their jobs done.If a process is missing, slow or broken, you don't get to complain about it – if you own it, it's your problem to fix.
BacklogYou create a backlog of features for your product or service.You create a backlog of changes and improvements for your product management function – the people, processes, org, ...If you don't evolve your product management function, things won't change – processes and people won't improve – outcomes won't improve. You need an opinion and ideas to constantly evolve.
RoadmapYou build a roadmap for the products and services you manage.You build a roadmap for your product management function – the people, processes, org, ...You can only evolve your people, processes, and product management function by making changes – you need to roadmap and implement your backlog ideas, like training and coaching your team, reviewing and improving processes, ...
You ensure that you get input and feedback from Stakeholders so that you build the best product to win in the market.You ensure that your product management processes, tools, people, interactions, and outcomes delight your stakeholders.If you don't engage stakeholders, things can get political and unhelpful. It's better to regularly meet with stakeholders to understand satisfaction with your team, your people, and your processes. This way you can collaborate, and make positive changes.

So, there you have it – some ways you may need to change your perspective when you’re a Product Management Leader.  This might be obvious to some seasoned leaders, but for aspiring or developing leaders, it could be an epiphany.

You can learn lots more about leading product management teams and our product management leadership framework on our course Leading Product Management.

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Product Leader Training


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