Cool, Fool, or a Tool?

The Product board calls this period the golden age of product management.

Over the last several years, Product management has become the most sought-after work profile. The Product board calls this period the golden age of product management. They have compelling statistics to prove their point based on a study by Neal Iyer. This indeed is an interesting profession as it deals with the entire product spectrum from discovery to the definition, design to delivery, and further beyond.

The understanding of the function is still widely varied and based on individual opinions. To add to the confusion around this, several frameworks have appeared with claims of making life easy for Product managers. Framework driven product management is more widespread now than value-driven product management.

The fundamentals should always be based on direct interactions with customers or users in a Product management context. The more distance that one has from the customer, the less are the chances for the success of a product. Identifying the Why paves the way for the steps there-after. However, the majority of the frameworks concentrate on prioritizing the already identified bucket list rather than the actual needs. These mainly aid the implementation decisions based on certain assumptions while still having the traditional trinity (Scope, budget, and time) in focus.

Photo by krakenimages on Unsplash

A lot of organizations in the name of transformation adopt one of these frameworks resulting in Product management losing its sheen. There are several layers created in between the customer and the teams working on serving the needs. Some of the roles created by some of such frameworks could be placed under Cool, Fool, or Tool types.

Photo by Matteo Vistocco on Unsplash

A Fool (Feature Output Optimization Lead) directs his/ her efforts in churning out features. A Cool (Component Output Optimization Lead) is not as cool as the term sounds. They might work on enhancing Technical components or parts of a bigger picture. These are essential but might hold little value themselves. A Tool (Team Output Optimization Lead) is engrossed in ensuring success for his/ her teams rather than thinking holistically.

These roles are not comparable in any measure to a Product Manager in general as they contribute little to strategic value. They have not much say over the needs, business cases, strategy, budgeting, and releases. Their contribution most often is limited to lower than tactical measures. This is the result of them being on the receiving side (what/ how) than the initiating side (why).

Ultimately, some of the above happenings are due to business choices and decisions. So, how does one move away from being a Cool, Fool, or Tool to a resourceful Pool (Product Outcome Optimization Lead)? Ponder on this thought for a while, and let me know your thoughts. In the next post, I will add some pointers to help in that journey.

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