Guest BloggerLeadershipProduct Management

Be the CEO of your Product but don’t Forget your Board of Directors

Note: This is a guest post by Josh Duncan.  If you want to submit your own guest post, click here for more information.

By Josh Duncan

I want to take a minute to talk about an issue I have with the “be the CEO of your product” statement.

Before I start, I highly encourage you to read Saeed Khan’s post, Product Management Metrics – Be the CEO of your product. This is an excellent presentation that covers a considerable amount of ground when it comes to operating as a product manager. Make sure to digest the product lifecycle slides and the objectives at the different phases.

Now, back to my concern.

The main issues I have with the “be the CEO of your product” statement is the fear that product managers will interpret this as, “I decide all things product”. This may be the case, but I would argue it is the exception vs. the rule.

Just like a CEO has to answer to a board of directors, product managers are not alone when it comes to making business decisions. Sales, marketing, support, finance, and other internal organizations are all part of the business and one way or another, will have an impact on your product and potentially, your career.

At larger companies, if you are the director or GM of your business unit, you may have a wide degree of control when it comes to product planning. Quarterly reports on roadmaps and launch plans may be all that are required to keep everyone in the loop.

At smaller companies, your “board of directors” may be your CEO and VP of Engineering that require monthly or even weekly reviews of your plans and releases.

The point is to recognize that every organization is going to have a different structure and like it or not, you are going to have to figure this out or risk losing support for your product (and career).

At an organization I worked at, we had reviewed our product plans with the major regions and received the go-ahead approval. Last minute, a junior finance lead from the Asia region almost torpedoed our product by raising red flags on our cost structure not being competitive. We had missed a financial review with the teamso the accurate data did not get shared to all of the teams. Thankfully, we were able to save the product by providing the missing information and suffering through several fire drill executive reviews.

Product managers need to get buy-in and support before plans can be finalized. Finding out who’s on your boards of directors ahead of time will make sure that everyone is aligned when it comes to making product plans.


Image Credit:  EMSL

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