PM Attributes

These atributes (by Ben Horowitz) are necessary for everybody who manages any task or person


1. Market, Product, Responsibility:

  • Good PM knows the market, the product, the product line, and the competition extremely well and operates from a strong basis of knowledge and confidence, is the CEO of the product. Good PMs take full responsibility and measure themselves in terms of the success of the product, is responsible for the right product/right time and all that entails. A good PM knows the context going in (company, revenue, competition, etc.), and they take responsibility for devising and executing a winning plan (no excuses).

  • Bad PM has lots of excuses. Not enough funding, the engineering manager is an idiot, Microsoft has ten times as many engineers working on it, I’m overworked, I don’t get enough direction. Our CEO doesn’t make these kinds of excuses and neither should the CEO of a product.


2. Management:

  • Good PMs are not part of the product team; they manage the product team. Define the “what” and manage the delivery of the “what”.

  • Bad PMs feel best about themselves when they figure out “how.”


3. Communication, Planning:

  • Good PMs communicate crisply in writing as well as verbally. Don’t give direction informally, they gather information informally. Good PMs create collateral, FAQs, presentations, and white papers that can be leveraged by sales, marketing, and executives. Good PMs anticipate serious product flaws and build real solutions. Good PMs take written positions on important issues (competitive silver bullets, tough architectural choices, product decisions, and markets to attack or yield).

  • Bad PMs complain that they spend all day answering questions for the sales force and are swamped. Bad product managers put out fires all day. Bad product managers voice their opinions 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.


4. Focus, Value:

  • Good PMs focus the team on revenue and customers. Good PMs define good products that can be executed with a strong effort. Good PMs think in terms of delivering superior value to the marketplace during product planning and achieving market share and revenue goals during the go-to-market phase.

  • Bad PMs focus the team on how many features competitors are building. Bad PMs define good products that can’t be executed or let engineering build whatever they want. Bad PMs get very confused about the differences between delivering value, matching competitive features, pricing, and ubiquity.


5. Problems, Press:

  • Good PMs decompose problems. Good PMs think about the story they want written by the press. Good PMs ask the press questions. Good PMs assume members of the press and the analyst community are really smart. Good PMs err on the side of clarity. Good PMs send their status reports in on time every week because they are disciplined. Good PM defines their job and their success.

  • Bad PMs combine all problems into one. Bad PMs think about covering every feature and being absolutely technically accurate with the press. Bad PMs answer any press question. Bad PMs assume that journalists and analysts are dumb because they don’t understand the nuances of their particular technology. Bad PMs never even explain the obvious. Bad PMs constantly want to be told what to do. Bad PMs forget to send in their status reports on time because they don’t value discipline.