One Common PM Language

“Are Roadmaps Obsolete? Product Roadmaps in Highly Iterative Environments”

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Wednesday March 18th  at 1:00 PM Eastern


I am deeply passionate about the role of product management and the intrinsic value good product management teams can provide to a company. However, I also have to accept the truth that product mangers as a group are not the game changers, nor the market makers, they could be.

Root of the Problem
Senior leaders lack awareness of the value product managers bring to the organization and the attainment of business goals. Many CEOs still perceive the primary charter of a product manager is technical. When they put product managers under a technical leader, there is often a void is created due to a lack of emphasis on market success and business outcomes.

Another challenge is that surprisingly many product management professionals have limited formal training (at no fault of their own). They’ve learned product management based on the culture and practice available from their employer and by trial and error.

In addition, many employers don’t incent or motivate their product managers to keep current in the best practices of the profession and efforts in this area are informal at best.

We need a better definition of what “good” looks like.

Simple Frameworks

So what does “good” look like? Setting a foundation of truths, so to speak, has successfully guided other professional disciplines, such as software development, for example. Software languages vary a lot, but there is no debate on what “good” code looks like.

Among professional sales organizations, there are a multitude of sales methodologies, but they all place the highest value on one goal and monitor the same process.

People argue that the discipline of product management is different—that it’s not software engineering nor is it as concrete as following a sales methodology —and that is absolutely right.

That is a good reason to consider a more disciplined approach to product management.

Call to Action

It might be unorthodox to call for a set of unifying principles for product managers to use. However, the benefit of teaching a common language based on a common framework is obvious even if they may not be practical.

Here’s why:

  • Today, new and recently anointed product managers need a body of knowledge tied to industry best practices and fact-based methods that produce repeatable and reliable outcomes.
  • Product management leaders must begin to manage their teams to business outcomes tightly linked to the highest priorities of the company. A scorecard or KPIs should be the primary source of proof that the function is contributing to the overall company goals.
  • Company executives must stop shoving product management into a convenient place in the organization such as development or marketing simply because they don’t understand the function or because of a bad experience.
  • Product management thought leaders would actually become more sought after and scale their practices if they formalized just a hand full of common components and terminology. There are sufficient frameworks and terminology that have been time tested and capable of elevating the effectiveness and efficiency of most product teams.

Our practice may not be ideal for a formal maturity model such as Six Sigma and Capability Maturity Model Integration (CMMI) however, we can gain a lot by agreeing on some basic tenets of what “good” looks like.

Do you think it’s time for product management to embrace a maturity model? Let us know in the comments.