A good product manager is hard to find, but it’s almost impossible to find a top “1%” product manager.Ian McAllister, one of Amazon’s top managers working on “unusual projects,” has a good explanation over on Quora of what qualifies as a “1%” product manager.
Those product managers have the skills and technical expertise to understand the nitty-gritty of just about every part of a company’s product.
A one percenter product manager's thinking 'won't be constrained by the resources available to them today or today's market environment,' McAllister said.
'They'll describe large disruptive opportunities, and develop concrete plans for how to take advantage of them.'
One percenter product managers will make a bullet-proof argument for their projects.
'They'll use data appropriately, when available, but they'll also tap into other biases, beliefs, and triggers that can convince the powers that be to part with headcount, money, or other resources and then get out of the way,' McAllister said.
The best product managers can get 80 per cent of the value of a project with 20 per cent of the effort, McAllister said.
'They do so repeatedly, launching more and achieving compounding effects for the product or business.'
'They balance quick wins vs. platform investments appropriately. They balance offence and defence projects appropriately,' McAllister said.
Offensive projects are ones that grow the business, while defensive projects are ones that protect and remove drag on the business, he said.
'A one-per cent product manager grinds it out,' McAllister said.
'They do whatever is necessary to ship. They recognise no specific bounds to the scope of their role. As necessary, they recruit, they produce buttons, they do business development, they escalate, they tussle with internal counsel.'
The best product managers don't need to have a computer science degree, but they do need to be able to understand the technical complexity of their products.
They need to be able to understand 'the technical complexity of the features they put on the backlog, without any costing input from developers,' McAllister said. 'They should partner with developers to make the right technical trade-offs (i.e. compromise).'
The best product managers don't have to be designers, but they should appreciate great design.
Product managers need to be able to distinguish great design from 'good design,' McAllister said. 'They should also be able to articulate the difference to their design counterparts, or at least articulate directions to pursue to go from good to great.'
Product managers should understand that 'each additional word they write dilutes the value of the previous ones,' McAllister said.
'They should spend time and energy trying to find the perfect words for key copy, not just words that will suffice.'
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