Elements of product management

“In this world there are only two tragedies. One is not getting what one wants, and the other is getting it.” I’ve been considering this in the context of product management. Why do I want to be a PM? Am I playing the wrong game, for the wrong reasons? I don’t think so. 

This led me back to writing. I boil stories down to five elements:

Authorial Intent

Product management has similar interacting elements:

Business Analysis
Software Development / Engineering
Project Management

The joy I find in writing fiction comes from combining diverse elements into a cohesive story and releasing it into the world. Product management promises a similar satisfaction and another opportunity to create consistently.

But how do the elements interact? In fiction, authorial intent unifies and empowers the elements of character, world, events and narration. An analogous element is required for product management: 

Interface and Integrate

The “author” would be the PO or PM. Their ability to interface across disciplines and integrate collective effort empowers the other elements of product management. This is what authorial intent accomplishes in fiction. 

Another way of looking at these two sets of elements is using the concept of T-shaped skill sets…

A Tale of Two Ts

In fiction writing, the vertical bar can correspond to any single elements, with the remaining four elements arrayed horizontally. Hard sci-fi author Neal Stephenson’s main expertise is world-building. That’s not to deny his skill crafting characters, plotting events or narrating the story. He’s good overall, but world-building is where he truly excels. 

Many PMs have a strong background in tech, having first been developers or engineers. The vertical bar of their T lies in software. Others come from project management, sales or business analysis. I am none of those.

As a writer, I know that there are people who can craft better characters, build more immersive worlds, plot more engaging stories and pen more penetrating prose. But I stand out in the way I imbue my work with authorial intent and pull the elements together. 

My approach to PMing is the same. I know that there will be people with greater experience in software development, deeper insight into UX and more finely honed project management skills. But there aren’t many who can integrate and interface as well as I can.