Forget Managing Your Products

There’s a cliché (and unfair) saying, that traditional project management was focused on just what it said – managing a project. That all the efforts, were aimed at the single goal of delivering the negotiated scope, within budget and on time. Some years ago, with advent of the new black (all things Agile), another statement was coined.

“Don’t manage projects! Manage products!”

I can see callings to do that voiced across social networks at least twice a week. Really, that often. It makes me wonder, how is it possible? Agile is expanding for well over a decade now, the approach makes sense and is logical, why do we still need to make this calling for product management? It makes perfect sense for all industries to utilize at least some aspects of it, if they understand what their actual product is.

Yet, it doesn’t happen.

One thing is, that many organizations eagerly introduce agile methodologies without taking any consideration on why these were introduced to begin with. Implementing mechanics is deceptively easy. Learning the mindset, changing decades old habits, understanding the whole thing – is, on the other hand, as hard as can be. Yet, if you ask any of these organizations if they “are agile”, every single one of them will reply – “well, of course!”

Which brings me to the second point. Focus on managing products, as opposed to managing projects, is a brilliant thing. It is a huge step forward. However, when coupled with mechanical agility, it brings unexpected results. Teams working in a very efficient way, can easily produce something stupid. And then, clients get mad about “that agile thing not working”, request more governance, reintroduce heavyweight project management methodologies. All because suppliers, manufacturers and creators miss the most important thing.

Their product, however well managed and developed, is not important.

No client needs it. No client wants it. No client really cares about the product. Nobody needs your software. Likewise, nobody needs cell phones. Or spoons.

We only need what we want to achieve.

I can’t recall where was it when I first heard the phrase “Nobody needs a drill, but a hole is probably useful”. That’s what every business is about. And we somehow forget it.

And managing product means perfecting the art of drill creation. Noble, but pointless.

People don’t give a damn about your product. They do care about what it can do for them. Ultimately, that’s the only thing that matters.

And there’s always more than one way to deliver value. Quite often, it might not involve any new product development at all. Maybe you could just reuse something. Or get something off the shelf and configure it. Or build upon it. Or just forget it altogether and introduce some process changes to fill the need.

Whatever works, the lighter and easier, the better.

Do not manage your products then. Manage the value you provide.

Opinions are my own and not the views of my employers, customers, or clients.

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