SaeedWorth Repeating

Happy Star Wars Day — Rules of the Product Management Jedi


In honour of Star Wars Day — May 4th — I thought it was appropriate to reprint this oldie, but goodie. 🙂


Balance many opposing forces to achieve harmony you must

Without question, being successful at Product Management can be viewed as a balancing act. This is true for any business function, but given the number of cross-team dependencies for Product Management, it’s incredibly important for Product Managers to be aware of this. Over time, balancing the needs of sales, marketing, development, support etc. are all critical to success.

A plan is only as good as those who see it through

It’s actually very easy to make plans. All it takes is a set of objectives and some optimism. But as everyone knows, creating a plan and executing a plan are very different things. Every company has limit on it’s ability to execute a plan. The size, background, existing workload, dedication, difficulty of the task and many other factors play parts in the company’s ability to execute. When defining plans, make sure your goals are feasible and within the limits of the teams that will have to carry out those plans.

Say “No”, for only then does “Yes” have meaning

Saying “Yes” to a customer or Executive request is easy. It’s the expected answer, but it’s meaningless if it is the only answer you give. Product Managers cannot be bobbleheads, nodding yes to every request.  Saying “No” to a customer or executive is also easy, IF you can clearly articulate why it is the right answer. Saying No the first time is the most difficult, but it is also very empowering. After all, part of what everyone expects of Product Managers is their judgment in making good decisions.

Earned over time credibility is, but in a moment lost it can be

Building strong cross-team relationships is critical for success….take time and effort to understand what other teams need from you, and what you need from them. Information and power will flow in both directions easily if you gain credibility with others. Without that credibility, and the associated trust that comes with it,  your path to success will be difficult regardless of how much effort you put into the job.

Inspire greatness in others, all great leaders do

There is a lot of talk about Product Management and leadership. But what does it mean to be a leader of product or of a cross-functional team? Leaders are only leaders as long as they have followers. But the best leaders gain followers by setting an example for them and, in fact,  helping the followers achieve their goals. To be a great leader, show your team members you can help them be successful, in whatever definition of “success” is meaningful to them.

Ignore you instincts at your own peril you do

Logic and reason are incredibly valuable tools, that unfortunately can be in short supply in many companies. But, logic works best when you know all the facts for any given situation. Remove some key facts and where will logic lead you? While we don’t understand how it works, instinct is a critical tool for decision-making, for leadership and for success. Don’t ignore your instincts if you are troubled about a decision. In the end, after all the data is crunched and the insight gleaned, decisions are made in our brain before we even consciously know that we’ve decided something. Sounds a bit like instinct don’t you think?

And finally, a bonus rule, surprisingly omitted from the original list.

Do. Or do not. There is no try.

One of the most famous quotes from Yoda, this is also one of the most applicable to product managers.  As product leaders we need to be decisive in our actions and focus on the key tasks that lead to product success. “Trying” is simply a statement showing lack of confidence.  This doesn’t mean that all decisions or actions will be the right ones, but it does indicate that when we take those actions or make those decisions, we have a firm grasp of the situation and commitment to our goals.


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About the author

Saeed Khan is a founder and Managing Editor of On Product Management, and has worked for the last 20 years in high-technology companies building and managing market leading products. He also speaks regularly at events on the topic of product management and product leadership. You can contact him via Twitter @saeedwkhan or via the Contact Us page on this blog.