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Good	
  Product	
  Manager,	
  
Bad	
  Product	
  Manager	
  
Good	
  product	
  managers	
  know	
  the	
  market,	
  the	
  product,	
  the	
  product	
  line	
  and	
  the	
  
competition	
  extremely	
  well	
  and	
  operate	
  from	
  a	
  strong	
  basis	
  of	
  knowledge	
  and	
  
confidence.	
  A	
  good	
  product	
  manager	
  is	
  the	
  CEO	
  of	
  the	
  product.	
  Good	
  product	
  managers	
  
take	
  full	
  responsibility	
  and	
  measure	
  themselves	
  in	
  terms	
  of	
  the	
  success	
  of	
  the	
  product.	
  
They	
  are	
  responsible	
  for	
  right	
  product/right	
  time	
  and	
  all	
  that	
  entails.	
  A	
  good	
  product	
  
manager	
  knows	
  the	
  context	
  going	
  in	
  (the	
  company,	
  our	
  revenue	
  funding,	
  competition,	
  
etc.),	
  and	
  they	
  take	
  responsibility	
  for	
  devising	
  and	
  executing	
  a	
  winning	
  plan	
  (no	
  
excuses).	
  
	
  
Bad	
  product	
  managers	
  have	
  lots	
  of	
  excuses.	
  Not	
  enough	
  funding,	
  the	
  engineering	
  
manager	
  is	
  an	
  idiot,	
  Microsoft	
  has	
  10	
  times	
  as	
  many	
  engineers	
  working	
  on	
  it,	
  I'm	
  
overworked,	
  I	
  don't	
  get	
  enough	
  direction.	
  [Netscape	
  CEO]	
  Barksdale	
  doesn't	
  make	
  these	
  
kinds	
  of	
  excuses	
  and	
  neither	
  should	
  the	
  CEO	
  of	
  a	
  product.	
  
	
  
Good	
  product	
  managers	
  don't	
  get	
  all	
  of	
  their	
  time	
  sucked	
  up	
  by	
  the	
  various	
  
organizations	
  that	
  must	
  work	
  together	
  to	
  deliver	
  right	
  product	
  right	
  time.	
  They	
  don't	
  
take	
  all	
  the	
  product	
  team	
  minutes,	
  they	
  don't	
  project	
  manage	
  the	
  various	
  functions;	
  they	
  
are	
  not	
  gophers	
  for	
  engineering.	
  They	
  are	
  not	
  part	
  of	
  the	
  product	
  team;	
  they	
  manage	
  the	
  
product	
  team.	
  Engineering	
  teams	
  don't	
  consider	
  Good	
  Product	
  Managers	
  a	
  "marketing	
  
resource."	
  Good	
  product	
  managers	
  are	
  the	
  marketing	
  counterparts	
  of	
  the	
  engineering	
  
manager.	
  Good	
  product	
  managers	
  crisply	
  define	
  the	
  target,	
  the	
  “what”	
  (as	
  opposed	
  to	
  
the	
  “how”)	
  and	
  manage	
  the	
  delivery	
  of	
  the	
  “what.”	
  Bad	
  product	
  managers	
  feel	
  best	
  
about	
  themselves	
  when	
  they	
  figure	
  out	
  “how”.	
  Good	
  product	
  managers	
  communicate	
  
crisply	
  to	
  engineering	
  in	
  writing	
  as	
  well	
  as	
  verbally.	
  Good	
  product	
  managers	
  don't	
  give	
  
direction	
  informally.	
  Good	
  product	
  managers	
  gather	
  information	
  informally.	
  
	
  
Good	
  product	
  managers	
  create	
  collateral,	
  FAQs,	
  presentations,	
  and	
  white	
  papers	
  that	
  
can	
  be	
  leveraged.	
  Bad	
  product	
  managers	
  complain	
  that	
  they	
  spend	
  all	
  day	
  answering	
  
questions	
  for	
  the	
  sales	
  force	
  and	
  are	
  swamped.	
  Good	
  product	
  managers	
  anticipate	
  the	
  
serious	
  product	
  flaws	
  and	
  build	
  real	
  solutions.	
  Bad	
  product	
  managers	
  put	
  out	
  fires	
  all	
  
day.	
  Good	
  product	
  managers	
  take	
  written	
  positions	
  on	
  important	
  issues	
  (competitive	
  
silver	
  bullets,	
  tough	
  architectural	
  choices,	
  tough	
  product	
  decisions,	
  markets	
  to	
  attack	
  or	
  
yield).	
  Bad	
  product	
  managers	
  voice	
  their	
  opinion	
  verbally	
  and	
  lament	
  that	
  the	
  “powers	
  
that	
  be”	
  won't	
  let	
  it	
  happen.	
  Once	
  bad	
  product	
  managers	
  fail,	
  they	
  point	
  out	
  that	
  they	
  
predicted	
  they	
  would	
  fail.	
  
	
  
Good	
  product	
  managers	
  focus	
  the	
  team	
  on	
  revenue	
  and	
  customers.	
  Bad	
  product	
  
managers	
  focus	
  team	
  on	
  how	
  many	
  features	
  Microsoft	
  is	
  building.	
  Good	
  product	
  
managers	
  define	
  good	
  products	
  that	
  can	
  be	
  executed	
  with	
  a	
  strong	
  effort.	
  Bad	
  product	
  
managers	
  define	
  good	
  products	
  that	
  can't	
  be	
  executed	
  or	
  let	
  engineering	
  build	
  whatever	
  
they	
  want	
  (i.e.	
  solve	
  the	
  hardest	
  problem).	
  
 
Good	
  product	
  managers	
  think	
  in	
  terms	
  of	
  delivering	
  superior	
  value	
  to	
  the	
  market	
  place	
  
during	
  inbound	
  planning	
  and	
  achieving	
  market	
  share	
  and	
  revenue	
  goals	
  during	
  
outbound.	
  Bad	
  product	
  managers	
  get	
  very	
  confused	
  about	
  the	
  differences	
  amongst	
  
delivering	
  value,	
  matching	
  competitive	
  features,	
  pricing,	
  and	
  ubiquity.	
  Good	
  product	
  
managers	
  decompose	
  problems.	
  Bad	
  product	
  managers	
  combine	
  all	
  problems	
  into	
  one.	
  
	
  
Good	
  product	
  managers	
  think	
  about	
  the	
  story	
  they	
  want	
  written	
  by	
  the	
  press.	
  Bad	
  
product	
  managers	
  think	
  about	
  covering	
  every	
  feature	
  and	
  being	
  really	
  technically	
  
accurate	
  with	
  the	
  press.	
  Good	
  product	
  managers	
  ask	
  the	
  press	
  questions.	
  Bad	
  product	
  
managers	
  answer	
  any	
  press	
  question.	
  Good	
  product	
  managers	
  assume	
  press	
  and	
  
analyst	
  people	
  are	
  really	
  smart.	
  Bad	
  product	
  managers	
  assume	
  that	
  press	
  and	
  analysts	
  
are	
  dumb	
  because	
  they	
  don't	
  understand	
  the	
  difference	
  between	
  "push"	
  and	
  "simulated	
  
push."	
  
	
  
Good	
  product	
  managers	
  err	
  on	
  the	
  side	
  of	
  clarity	
  vs.	
  explaining	
  the	
  obvious.	
  Bad	
  
product	
  managers	
  never	
  explain	
  the	
  obvious.	
  Good	
  product	
  managers	
  define	
  their	
  job	
  
and	
  their	
  success.	
  Bad	
  product	
  managers	
  constantly	
  want	
  to	
  be	
  told	
  what	
  to	
  do.	
  
	
  
Good	
  product	
  managers	
  send	
  their	
  status	
  reports	
  in	
  on	
  time	
  every	
  week,	
  because	
  they	
  
are	
  disciplined.	
  Bad	
  product	
  managers	
  forget	
  to	
  send	
  in	
  their	
  status	
  reports	
  on	
  time,	
  
because	
  they	
  don't	
  value	
  discipline.	
  
	
  
	
  
Ben	
  Horowitz	
  
Director	
  of	
  Product	
  Management	
  
Summer	
  1996	
  

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What is a Good Product Manager?

  • 1.   Good  Product  Manager,   Bad  Product  Manager   Good  product  managers  know  the  market,  the  product,  the  product  line  and  the   competition  extremely  well  and  operate  from  a  strong  basis  of  knowledge  and   confidence.  A  good  product  manager  is  the  CEO  of  the  product.  Good  product  managers   take  full  responsibility  and  measure  themselves  in  terms  of  the  success  of  the  product.   They  are  responsible  for  right  product/right  time  and  all  that  entails.  A  good  product   manager  knows  the  context  going  in  (the  company,  our  revenue  funding,  competition,   etc.),  and  they  take  responsibility  for  devising  and  executing  a  winning  plan  (no   excuses).     Bad  product  managers  have  lots  of  excuses.  Not  enough  funding,  the  engineering   manager  is  an  idiot,  Microsoft  has  10  times  as  many  engineers  working  on  it,  I'm   overworked,  I  don't  get  enough  direction.  [Netscape  CEO]  Barksdale  doesn't  make  these   kinds  of  excuses  and  neither  should  the  CEO  of  a  product.     Good  product  managers  don't  get  all  of  their  time  sucked  up  by  the  various   organizations  that  must  work  together  to  deliver  right  product  right  time.  They  don't   take  all  the  product  team  minutes,  they  don't  project  manage  the  various  functions;  they   are  not  gophers  for  engineering.  They  are  not  part  of  the  product  team;  they  manage  the   product  team.  Engineering  teams  don't  consider  Good  Product  Managers  a  "marketing   resource."  Good  product  managers  are  the  marketing  counterparts  of  the  engineering   manager.  Good  product  managers  crisply  define  the  target,  the  “what”  (as  opposed  to   the  “how”)  and  manage  the  delivery  of  the  “what.”  Bad  product  managers  feel  best   about  themselves  when  they  figure  out  “how”.  Good  product  managers  communicate   crisply  to  engineering  in  writing  as  well  as  verbally.  Good  product  managers  don't  give   direction  informally.  Good  product  managers  gather  information  informally.     Good  product  managers  create  collateral,  FAQs,  presentations,  and  white  papers  that   can  be  leveraged.  Bad  product  managers  complain  that  they  spend  all  day  answering   questions  for  the  sales  force  and  are  swamped.  Good  product  managers  anticipate  the   serious  product  flaws  and  build  real  solutions.  Bad  product  managers  put  out  fires  all   day.  Good  product  managers  take  written  positions  on  important  issues  (competitive   silver  bullets,  tough  architectural  choices,  tough  product  decisions,  markets  to  attack  or   yield).  Bad  product  managers  voice  their  opinion  verbally  and  lament  that  the  “powers   that  be”  won't  let  it  happen.  Once  bad  product  managers  fail,  they  point  out  that  they   predicted  they  would  fail.     Good  product  managers  focus  the  team  on  revenue  and  customers.  Bad  product   managers  focus  team  on  how  many  features  Microsoft  is  building.  Good  product   managers  define  good  products  that  can  be  executed  with  a  strong  effort.  Bad  product   managers  define  good  products  that  can't  be  executed  or  let  engineering  build  whatever   they  want  (i.e.  solve  the  hardest  problem).  
  • 2.   Good  product  managers  think  in  terms  of  delivering  superior  value  to  the  market  place   during  inbound  planning  and  achieving  market  share  and  revenue  goals  during   outbound.  Bad  product  managers  get  very  confused  about  the  differences  amongst   delivering  value,  matching  competitive  features,  pricing,  and  ubiquity.  Good  product   managers  decompose  problems.  Bad  product  managers  combine  all  problems  into  one.     Good  product  managers  think  about  the  story  they  want  written  by  the  press.  Bad   product  managers  think  about  covering  every  feature  and  being  really  technically   accurate  with  the  press.  Good  product  managers  ask  the  press  questions.  Bad  product   managers  answer  any  press  question.  Good  product  managers  assume  press  and   analyst  people  are  really  smart.  Bad  product  managers  assume  that  press  and  analysts   are  dumb  because  they  don't  understand  the  difference  between  "push"  and  "simulated   push."     Good  product  managers  err  on  the  side  of  clarity  vs.  explaining  the  obvious.  Bad   product  managers  never  explain  the  obvious.  Good  product  managers  define  their  job   and  their  success.  Bad  product  managers  constantly  want  to  be  told  what  to  do.     Good  product  managers  send  their  status  reports  in  on  time  every  week,  because  they   are  disciplined.  Bad  product  managers  forget  to  send  in  their  status  reports  on  time,   because  they  don't  value  discipline.       Ben  Horowitz   Director  of  Product  Management   Summer  1996