Product managers spend a large part of their time firefighting against operational issues.

According to our Survey of the Product Management profession, product managers spend too much time on unplanned activities, leaving little time for strategic thinking and planning.

But is this wrong? Well, it depends on what you think product management is for.

Certainly, these activities need to be handled by someone but maybe the bigger issue is why they aren’t be handled by the organization before being escalated to product management.

It’s also definitely something that product managers care about. In our survey three key themes were:-

– finding time for strategic work without being distracted by firefighting

– often product management is a catch-all for issues – absolving other departments of responsibility

– a lack of clarity on roles and responsibilities in the product area – often resulting in product management not being properly understood or valued by the rest of the business.

It’s clear that many product managers feel distracted by firefighting and at the same time put-upon and undervalued by other parts of the business.

So what is the role of product management in your organization?

Is it a convenient dumping ground for any product related issue or is it giving strategic direction and product leadership to the business?

Do you want to move from being constantly on the ‘back-foot’, reacting to whatever is thrown at you and get onto the ‘front-foot’, pro-actively leading the work you do?

Assuming, like us, you aspire to the latter, what can be done about it?

The problem is how the product management function is implemented in your business.

Excessive firefighting is often because the right product management processes are not in place, roles and responsibilities between different departments are not clear and product managers don’t have the experience and training to handle things more effectively.

Ask yourself, and your manager, what is product management for in our business? Do we have the right processes in place? Are responsibilities across the organization clear? Are we prioritizing effectively? How should we be measured?

If you can answer these questions you can start to change how product management is perceived, how it fits within the business and move it towards a more proactive and strategic role.

If you can’t, come on our training or give us a call…

Ian Lunn
Director, Product Focus

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