“I am a product manager. I do a bunch of things…just not any real work.” I’ve tried that line a few times at cocktail parties when the question “so…what do you do?” invariably comes up. On the good days, that usually gets a faint laugh from everyone. The statement is meant to be facetious, but there is an element of truth to it. In fact, that’s exactly what my mother thinks to this day. In her mind, unless my job title has the word engineer, lawyer, doctor, or sales in it, it’s not a real job. She keeps a spare bedroom in her house. I’m convinced it’s because she believes it’s only a matter of time before my company figures out I’m actually useless and show me the door.
While I don’t think I will be out of a job soon, there is a certain amount of truth to that. The way product managers add value is very nebulous. In my daily work, I tell people what to build, but I don’t actually build anything. I do a lot of selling to stakeholders, but I don’t actually sell any products or bring in any money for the company. I tell people how to do a bunch of things, except they are 10x better than me at doing it. So why should a product manager exist at at?
In my view, a product manager is the equivalent of an amplifier in a sound system. By itself, it’s completely useless, but given the right components around it, the amplifier is the difference between a home theatre system and a sound system that is able to fill a 2,000 people concert hall. If I have to distill down the role of product manager into a tweet, it would be to:
10x the productivity of the people I works with
The philosophy has significant implication in the way I approach work on a daily basis. Below are 3 rules that I follow to ensure that I get the results I desire.