• John Berry
    32
    There was an interesting article on LinkedIn the other day - the crux was that the author was offering a standard definition of the characteristics needed for success as a Product Manager. I wondered how valid this idea of 'standardisation' was. Here are my thoughts.

    Firstly we need to be clear about what a Product Manager is. In my time at Philips, I was one - I headed the systems product management group with four product managers covering fixed links, base stations, command and control systems, infrastructure plans and other odd-ball kit like long range mobile units. We sat between a sales organisation of around 300 people locally and abroad and a development team of around 60 people. We controlled the specification, price and much of the policies in support, distribution and promotion.

    In Motorola at that time, Product Managers were more akin with the product owners of today's Agile software approach - they metaphorically sat at the end of the developers' benches. They were engineers controlling the specification and not a lot else.

    This simple illustration shows that any manager thinking about looking to such a standardisation must understand first what the Product Manager must be able to do.

    From a theoretical viewpoint too, no manager should standardise the requirements for a Product Manager - performance in a job requires both task and contextual skills and knowledge. Even if they are found to be pretty much the same job, their contexts will undoubtedly be different and hence the contextual skills and knowledge will be different. One firm may require their Product managers to have significant customer interaction while another may not.

    So while it's maybe interesting to think that adopting someone else's standardisation of a job is useful and efficient, unfortunately, the personal characteristics required in one firm are unlikely to be any way the same as in another. Even if you feel attracted towards a standard competency list from somewhere like the National Occupational Standards, you must adopt those that apply and develop others to suit your own uniqueness.

    Managers must always build their candidate requirements for their job and not adopt someone else's.

    What are your thoughts on the matter?
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