The Product Management Practice

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Babis Marmanis, CCC’s Executive Vice President & Chief Technology Officer, recently wrote a post on LinkedIn titled The Product Management Practice, the first in a series defining a highly performing Product Management (PM) practice. Since joining CCC, Babis has strengthened its product management practice, resulting in award-winning solutions that simplify content workflow, data management and licensing. Here are a few key points from his original post.

There is considerable consensus regarding skills and expectations for key roles in building software, such as software engineer, database administrator, software architect, quality assurance engineer, or business analyst. That’s not the case for the crucial role of software product manager, or PM. I believe there are 5 categories to master for PM success, and we use these here in managing the PM practice at CCC:

  1. People
  2. Analytical
  3. Operations
  4. Knowledge
  5. Activities

In each area, we’ve identified a set of metrics built on the expectations associated with a competency. The categories, along with the competencies associated with each, establish a helpful framework to:

  • Evaluate prospective candidates for product management positions,
  • Onboard new product managers by setting clear expectations and providing a framework for success, and
  • Evaluate team performance by identifying areas of strength to be celebrated as well as opportunities for improvement.

In this first post, I describe key competencies to drive success in the People category.

People Competencies for PM Success

  • Collaboration
  • Conflict Management
  • Emotional Intelligence
  • Building A++ teams
  • Effective Communication

There is an overlap between the skills necessary for demonstrating competence in each of these functions, yet it is important that a PM can demonstrate competence in all of these areas.

People Competency: Collaboration

Description: Building partnerships & working collaboratively with others to meet shared objectives

Skills: Building alignment with key team members across multiple teams; managing tension when disagreements surface; critical thinking.

Expectations: Be a good listener and demonstrate willingness to find solutions to problems; recognize the strengths and weaknesses of different team members; have the courage to own mistakes; be gracious to others for their contributions and acknowledge them publicly.

People Competency: Conflict Management

Description: Conflict is ubiquitous in corporate life and very valuable when managed properly. PMs accept a healthy amount of conflict yet distinguish between conflicts whose friction points are based on facts versus opinions.

Skills: Identifying conflict presence and conflict origin (root cause); understanding conflict management strategies and their applicability in various contexts; managing interpersonal disputes effectively to resolve underlying problems that cause the conflict and preserve team cohesion and productivity.

Expectations: Be a good listener and demonstrate willingness to resolve conflicts; empathize with each side and try to understand strengths and weaknesses of conflicting viewpoints; identify root cause (e.g., is it an issue problem or a people problem? Is it incompatibility of roles or lack of role clarity? Is there a knowledge gap that creates misunderstandings?)

People Competency: Emotional intelligence 

Description: “The capability of individuals to recognize their own emotions and those of others, discern between different feelings and label them appropriately, use emotional information to guide thinking and behavior, and manage and/or adjust emotions to adapt to environments or achieve one’s goal(s)”; source: Wikipedia. The following is a classic paper on the topic: https://bit.ly/30whlYu

Skills: Perceiving emotions; using emotions; understanding emotions; and managing emotions as applied in self-awareness; self-management; social awareness; and relationship management.

People Competency: Building A++ teams 

Description: An “A++ team” is characterized by high energy levels, a tireless drive, plenty of creativity, and a relentless commitment to excellence.

Skills: Developing energy and enthusiasm by focusing on each individual’s contributions and how their work can make a big difference; encouraging team member communications; encouraging team member innovation; encouraging team members to represent the team and the product in their respective capacities.

People Competency: Effective Communication

Description: A communication is effective when the message to be communicated has been received and interpreted as intended. In other words, your message was fully understood by your audience.

Skills: Identifying the objective of the communication; identifying the state of mind of the recipients; empathizing with your audience; demonstrating a genuine interest in communicating with your audience; using plain terms where possible and clear definitions of complicated things, as needed; awareness of body language and tone of voice; silence management in verbal communications

Expectations: Effective communication is the primary means of aligning team members, presenting clarity of your vision and purpose, and avoiding wasted resource cycles or duplication of work due to misunderstandings. You cannot be a great communicator without being a great active listener. We are all different in the way that we understand the world. The very same statement read by two very different individuals can be interpreted in two different ways, or in the words of Bertrand Russell: “…the objectivity of a perception does not depend only upon what it is in itself, but also upon the experience of the percipient.”

These People Competencies, although distinct, must be viewed as interlocking for the purpose of effectively managing the most valuable assets available for delivering a great product: its people. In the next post, I’ll cover competencies in the Analytical category that are crucial for a PM’s success.

If you found this blog interesting or you think I missed something important, please, do not hesitate to let me know.

Stay safe!

Babis Marmanis

Author: Babis Marmanis

Babis Marmanis, Ph.D., is responsible for defining the technology vision of all software systems at CCC. He leads a global team of professionals with a passion for continuous technological innovation and the delivery of high-quality software systems. Babis has written the books Spend Analysis and Algorithms of the Intelligent Web, and contributes to journals, conferences and technical magazines.

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