Recently, a client asked my opinion about one of their own employees and whether the person would make a great Product Manager. There is a lot of buzz around product management today and I’m seeing lots of examples of Project Managers changing their title. But the job of Project Manager is quite different to that of Product Manager, and not all Project Managers are going to find the shift to product management an easy one. So we discussed what the missing ingredient might be.
A solid Project Manager is organized. They make trade-offs between time, cost, and scope. If they are good, they are strong communicators and know how to engage teams to get things built. The biggest difference is the ability to shape, direct and drive a vision. There is a paradox that exists for Product Managers. You need to have a strong vision. You need to love your ideas and be passionate about them. You need to ‘ignore everybody’. Not everyone will understand what you’re trying to do or achieve. You need to silence the doubters. You need to be your own biggest fan to make it happen. But, you also need to be open, able to listen to the critics, seek out advice and know when to pivot, when to persevere and when to scrap the current approach altogether. There’s a good deal of art in product management.
And that’s not something we’ve asked Project Managers to do before. It’s not going to be an easy shift.
When asking someone to do a completely new role, consider the key ingredient you’re looking for above all others.Can you help that person develop the skills required for the role?