4 Mistakes Product Managers Make

Product Managers are the gateways to the rest of the organization. They are fearless visionaries that truly take ownership over a product, deep in the technical trenches while working across many silos within the company. However, not all product managers are created equal. Here are the 4 most common product manager mistakes, and some ways to safeguard against them. 

Product managers are the backbone to a successful software company, and every aspect of this unique and hybrid role should not be overlooked. Great product management makes the difference between winning and losing. Finding top talent that possesses superstar qualities certainly isn’t an easy feat – especially considering how much is riding on this pinnacle role.

Whether it’s due to lack of experience, or the inability to adapt from a small environment to a larger one – here are the 4 common mistakes product managers make.

  1. They manage – rather than influence people

Often times it’s forgotten that the Product Management role doesn’t have a direct line of authority over others. It is imperative to influence without authority. These are “mini-CEO’s” that need to be focused on executing on the company’s vision and fuelling the success of the product. The inexperienced Product Manager’s will get inundated with their specific role, and whom they believe reports directly to them – the great ones focus on matching the product up to customer expectations and properly aligned with the overall strategy. 

  1. They second guess themselves

Product Managers are unique spokespeople within the company that need to effectively defend their teams’ vision, ideas and decisions. They need to be able to communicate consistently and coherently to everyone from the founders, sales teams, customers, engineers and designers. They need to be absolutely fearless and confident in answering a gauntlet of questioning that will more than likely continually ensue. This role is not for the faint of heart. If they are squeamish to challenges—then they’re in way over their head.

  1. They let customers define the solution

Inexperienced Product Managers confuse customer and product requirements. They’re on the front lines dealing with them – but customers don’t necessarily know specifically what they want. They also aren’t in a position to understand the scope of the product and its place in the market. Building an innovative product means understanding the needs of the target market and combining the plausibility of creating it with a product that solves an actual problem. 

  1. They confuse innovation with value

“The key is that innovation needs to happen in the context of a vision and strategy. The innovation needs to be in support of providing true customer value.” – Martin Cagan, Silicon Valley Product Group

A clear purpose needs to be outlined in the strategic stages—a purpose that identifies a problem and has a detailed solution. That way the engineering team can align themselves with a clear vision and the opportunity to design an innovative product that mitigates customer problems—rather than being produced purely from a technical challenge standpoint.

Take the time to methodically understand what goes into this long-term investment, and avoid the common product manager mistakes that can derail your company's product.