Popular Misconceptions of the Product Craft by Sherif Mansour

In this entertaining and insightful talk from Mind the Product Singapore 2019, Sherif Mansour, Distinguished Product Manager at Atlassian, shares some common misconceptions about the product management craft, how we need to think differently about those issues, and what we should be doing instead.

1. Product Managers Make all the Decisions

As product managers it is easy to get stuck in making all the decisions. The questions keep coming in and it can feel great to help move your team forward by making the decisions, but they quickly pile up and leave you with no time to consider the bigger picture.

Sherif Mansour #mtpcon Singapore - Shared Understanding

Product Managers Make all the Decisions
Product Managers Own Decision-Making Velocity

Instead we need to switch our mindset about decision making – instead of owning all the decisions, we own the velocity of decision making. There are lots of decision-making frameworks, and they can all be helpful, but what really helps us make better decisions and improve decision-making velocity? Every time you focus on building a shared understanding of all the things you’re doing in your product with your whole team, instead of focusing on your day-to-day work, you have a massive impact on your decision-making velocity. A shared understanding of your customers, problems, and vision helps your whole team make the myriad of day-to-day decisions involved in product.

The best way to build a shared understanding in your team is simply to never do customer research alone. Involve the whole team in the process, then not only do you need to do less work reporting that information and insight back to the team, but you also build a shared understanding of the customer problem and allow for the “aha” moments that the wider team can have from direct interaction with customers.

It can be hard to assess whether you have a shared understanding with your team, but a really strong signal that you’re doing well is that you haven’t spent any time in Jira recently and the team is still executing fine.

2. Marketing Driven Development is Bad

Product teams can tend to want to stay away from Marketing, and we don’t like it when marketing deadlines drive product development or they need a demo for a client. But this tension between Product and Marketing is unnecessary. The best product doesn’t always win, most of the time we need Marketing to help spread the word and it’s up to us to work with and manage our stakeholders, so we can be more successful together.

Sherif Mansour #mtpcon Singapore - Storytelling

Marketing Driven Development is Bad
Embrace Opportunities to Focus on the Story

As product managers we should always educate our teams on the value of great marketing, embrace the art of storytelling that infuses our marketing teams, and think about how we can bring that back to our teams. Whether you follow Amazon’s press release method, mock-up landing pages before starting a new feature, or do a box design exercise where you design the fictional in-store box for your new product, thinking about the Who, What, and Why of your product can help you build a better product for your customer.

3. To Progress in Your Career, Manage People

We all start out in our career taking care of one small area of the product, and then we take on larger initiatives, larger products, until we hit a point where we have to decide whether we want to manage people or not. And it might seem right to become a manager of product managers – but maybe you can have a bigger impact by simply becoming better at the things you’re already good at. There is no right answer but it presents a challenge for us as a product discipline, and we need to allow people to find the path that is best for them. People should do the type of work that they find most fulfilling and most valuable to the company, whether they’re managing people or not.

To Progress in Your Career, Manage People
To Progress in Your Career, Discover What You’re Passionate About

Sherif shares Joff Redfern’s Product Craft Triangle, an image that maps the product craft to three points – the scientist focuses on data, the artist is vision-driven and cares about the story and design, and the general manager thinks holistically about the business. None of these are on a ladder, it’s about where you want to go in that triangle and finding the activities that you love the most.

Product Craft Triangle
Joff Redfern’s Product Craft Triangle

If you’re not sure about how you want your career to progress then it’s important to explore and try different parts of the role to understand what you’re passionate about. Map out your career path by writing your CV 10 years from now – but focusing on skills and activities instead of titles. And if you’re a manager think about improving the career path at your organisation to allow for excellence in both people management and product management, and involve your product managers in the strategic decisions so they can learn about that part of the job.

Sherif Mansour #mtpcon Singapore - Product Misconceptions

Debunking Misconceptions

These are just some of the most common misconceptions in product, but tackling them helps us reframe our thinking about the product craft and how we can be better at our jobs and ultimately build better products. Watch the full video for more insightful stories and examples from Sherif’s career and his customer research with other product managers as he debunks these misconceptions and guides us to better ways of working.

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