Ask A Good Product Manager

Your product management questions answered

Is a good product or a good management team more important?

Posted on November 15, 2011 · No Comments

Question: What is more important to success — a good product or good executive management team?

Answer from Nick Coster of brainmates: A Good Executive Management Team.

Without a good executive management team, you may or may not have a good product. If you have a good product, it will only be for the short term. For long term success the entire business needs to be aligned.

A product is the good or service that customers pay money or exchange value for. A good product generates sustaining revenue for a business. It is possible that a single Product Team can develop and deliver a good product to the market place but it requires the support of the entire organisation to make it an ongoing success.

A successful product is the result of an organisational team effort that has

  1. identified and understood an unmet need in the market place,
  2. developed a product and/or service that will satisfy that need,
  3. created a compelling competitive difference and reason to buy the product,
  4. communicated to the target market how the product addresses the need better than competing alternatives,
  5. provided an effective way for customers to obtain and pay for the product,
  6. developed a stable and scalable way to deliver and support the product for as long as it is in the market.

All of these things require significant effort and if not considered will result in gaps in the customers experience that will potentially damage any otherwise positive experience that the customer may have with the product.

Imagine a professional sports team where there are just one or two star players in the team. These star players may be so good that in spite of the ordinary team members, the team actually wins some games. Unfortunately this is hard or impossible to sustain for a whole season, and the team will may not long term success.

Long term success comes from a top down and bottom up unity of vision that focuses on delivering solutions to the market that address problems worth solving.

For Product Management one of the key challenges is to juggle and balance the competing internal demands of the different stakeholders. An awesome product manager may be able to deliver a great product to market, but for the product to be a success the rest of the business also needs to sell it, market it and support it. If the company is not working together such that this is happening well then failure will only be a matter of time.

Reflecting on the recent passing of Steve Jobs and his effect at Apple we can see the trajectory of a company that was delivering great successful products. Then the executive management started to fragment, ultimately resulting in the departure of Jobs. During this period the executive team lost it’s vision and while there were still some great products they failed to support the long term growth of the business. When Steve Jobs returned he was able to rally the company and create a collective vision again that as we know has resulted in the current success at Apple. While this may sound like the story of a single individual, it is not. It is the story of a shared vision for delivering better outcomes to customers and the market at large.

Organisational success is a result of product success but product success is the result of organisational focus. Organisational focus can only be effectively driven from the top down, otherwise all actions feel like a running battle towards an uncertain goal.