The many types of product managers
Product manager is one of those titles that can mean different things. There are many kinds of PMs that play different roles in different organizations and that’s a good thing. You want a PM that fits your needs.
If the CEO has grand visions of the product’s future and seems to come up with new ideas all the time, you need a wrangler. They have the discipline and focus to prioritize.
Risk: Not all wranglers have the soft skills to reign in the leadership without ticking them off
Visionaries are gifted in creating ideas and telling stories. When they describe a product, you get the concept and want it.
Risk: This type is not the best at getting things done
The opposite of the visionary is the driver. All product managers get s@#t done but this type is the best at it and they are the ones you call when you need to be in market yesterday.
Risk: The driver often lacks the ability to pull back from the frenzy of activity to make sure they are on the right track. They also get themselves into trouble with anyone in their way.
I’ve mostly seen this variety in larger organizations. They have strong relationships, keen political skills and know how to get things approved. You need one of these people on your innovation team to help you navigate the bureaucracy.
Risks: They can be risk averse and limited by the corporate way of thinking.
This person loves a complex problem with many moving pieces that have to be constructed and aligned.
Risk: Analysis paralysis is always a danger
When the product has lost focus they can come in, asses the situation, make the hard decisions and refocus the team.
Risks: If there isn’t anything major to fix, they can cause problems or get bored.
The (Insert Methodology Here) Guru
This PM is an expert in one of the big industry trends. They are able to help your organization become leaner, for example, with their education and advocacy. Their energy is invaluable in driving change.
Risk: No methodology can be implemented a 100%, they need to adapt to fit the situation they are in.
The PM in Transition
This person likely comes from a marketing, technical or design background and they haven’t fully let go of that role yet. They will be strong in whatever discipline they come from but you need to coach them to let go and focus on other areas.
This isn’t an exhaustive list, it simply describes many of the product manager’s I’ve encountered. None of the types are permanent, you will likely see someone start as one and learn how to take on the others. More seasoned product managers asses the situation and adapt their approach as needed.
Image: A stained glass panel in a Barcelona market