Why I Created the Product Management Triangle

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Product management is a role that most software companies recognize to be critical.  Yet, it is surprisingly hard to define “product management” in precise terms. The people who call themselves “product managers” do very different things from organization to organization. They work on different types of products,  with different types of teams, within different company structures.  The variance in product management positions is so stark that it may seem, from the outside, misleading to refer to the jobs with the same title.  In trying to pluck out the common threads that unify all product management jobs, one can end up with language that is too abstract to offer much explanatory value. For example, some accurate, but vague descriptions of product management duties include “fill white space” or “act as the glue” between cross-functional teams.

The ambiguity of the product management role is near to its essence. Within one company, the duties of a product manager can change drastically and quickly. Product managers operate in a fundamentally shifting landscape. Technologies change, team dynamics change, society changes, and new business opportunities unexpectedly emerge.  It is the special skill set of a product manager to recognize what these changes mean for their product and for their own role. In that sense, product managers have to rewrite their own job descriptions on a regular basis.

But what is this distinct craft of determining and implementing what a product needs to thrive as the world changes around it? Product managers, among other things, specialize in building bridges between the very general (e.g, a vision for changing the world), and the very specific (e.g., functional requirements for a single button). Ironically, the discipline of product management itself is missing this bridge. We lack a clear framework for connecting the high order duties of product management with the day-to-day realities of execution.  I’ve invented the visual framework of the product management triangle to be this bridge and provide a foundation for deeper exploration into product management topics.

Go here for a portal into the concepts of the Product Management Triangle.

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