Variability: Why We Love Product Management

Here’s some good news for Product Managers.

Last Thursday, I met up with several friends and former coworkers in the Product Management space. We met up in person to share stories, ideas, plans. I noticed a trend in helped me better understand the value that a Product Manager brings to the table.

The job of Product Manager is rooted in variability, making the role very valuable and – for what it’s worth – hard to replicate with AI. On any given day, for any given opportunity, it’s up to the Product leader to ascertain the situation and lead the conversation around the best course of action, in some cases, being the decision maker themselves. The opportunity can change by the week or day. And typically, the Product Manager is working on multiple opportunities at a time.

But what is “variability” in this context? Where does it live? I think it lives in three core areas.

Problems. The problems themselves can live in different places: the product, team, organization, customer, market. On a given day, it might be a product UX issue, GTM problem, cost-optimization issue, team development, problem with positioning … who knows? But the Product Manager is someone who can – and will – jump into any area to identify, understand and prioritize the problem.

Solutions. The solutions may also take on different forms. Maybe we add features? Maybe we take features away? Maybe we lobby for higher prices? Or lower? Maybe we look to add more people? Or reconfigure teams? Maybe we attack the quality area of intuitiveness … or performance … or accuracy? The solution is always specific to the problem, but rarely follows a repeatable pattern.

Operations. Is Scrum truly the best way to operate? Waterfall? A methodology that doesn’t yet have a name? Do we invest in CI/CD? Test automation? Better roadmapping tools? It depends on the situation of course, but Product can play a vital role in leading the discussions with the team.

These are just a few examples of where variability exists. It’s in the variability that the Product Manager flourishes. It’s art and science. It’s hard. But isn’t that why we love it?

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