One Dimensional Product Management

If you began your career in software engineering before transitioning to product management, you are likely to fall into the trap of “one dimensional product management”.

What are the symptoms?
Well, the classic “one dimensional” product manager will have a strong rapport with the engineering team and weak relations with the other stakeholders. If he is an extrovert, he will be able to connect with the others but will fail to see the big picture. Finally, he will always answer every problem or requirement with a feature spec. whether its necessary or not.

This is a common problem in India, in offshore PM roles. If the newbie PM has worked in engineering teams for more than ~5 years, he will realize that his education and expertise is limited to solving engineering problems and defining business problems in the engineering space. He can then either go on the defensive, and attack people who question his expertise, or increase his skills. He can go for the “part time” MBA, which is a mushrooming industry in India (especially in Bangalore) to gain more perspective. Unfortunately, these courses do not really provide him the tools to solve cross-dimensional problems (pricing, solution design etc) or really understand the best way to resolve customer needs. Additionally, the pressure to provide work to the engineering team makes it an “easy out” to simply add features to the roadmap, throwing away all notions of Minimum Viable Product and promoting Feature Bloat.

So what’s the best case solution?
In the best case, the engineering-cum product manager must go out of his comfort zone and go for a full time MBA. Post MBA, he must move into customer facing roles for a couple of years, and then move back to product management. (He must not directly jump back into offshore PM roles, see my post on career killer). In the end, he will have lesser ability to work as an engineer (which is no longer relevant to him or his organization), but will have far more tools in his toolkit to be a very successful multi-dimensional product manager.

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