What do Product Managers Wish for?

What do product managers wish for? They wish they could decide what their product should be like without the burden of customer requests, usage data, management dictums, and engineering pushbacks. They wish they could decide what’s best for the customer and get it implemented with no qualms. They wish they could just do it. It’s a very healthy desire: an attractor that keeps them going. Yet it conflicts with 99.99% of product development processes.

Reactive product management goes with the flow, innovating here and there. Active product management, on the other hand, often goes against the axiom “The customer is always right” and sets the tone instead of following an unseen conductor. Active product managers operate by two rules:
1) I know what product to build.
2) I will do anything it takes to make it happen.
They are not slaves to data or subservient to customer whims. They know that while often right, the customer doesn’t always know what they really need. They understand the market and know intuitively what the ideal product should be. They create an action plan and execute on it, beating time and budget records. They don’t get discouraged by implementation woes. They push their vision forward and do whatever it takes to get customers to want the product.

This Holy Grail is rarely achieved by mere mortals. Stave Jobs, Elon Musk, and a few others come to mind, but that’s about it. Virtually all the literature about product management goes against this notion, touting instead how to “listen to the pulse of the market”, “nurture customer feedback”, and “believe only in the data”. Until you reach the level of the aforementioned demigods, you are bound to follow this advice. Or maybe the way to reach that level is to ignore it? Enough daydreaming. Now back to work.

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