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Good Product Manager / Bad Product Manager

In The Hard Thing About Hard Things, Ben Horowitz wrote about his time as the director of product management at Netscape. He was frustrated by how little value most product managers added to the business. That's when he wrote a short document to lay down his basic expectations called “Good Product Manager/Bad Product Manager”.

While the framework was written for Product Managers in mind, the biggest key point is still about ownership. Here are some of my favorite quotes:

  • They are responsible for right product/right time and all that entails. A good product manager knows the context going in (the company, our revenue funding, competition, etc.) and they take responsibility for devising and executing a winning plan (no excuses).

  • Bad product managers have lots of excuses. Not enough funding, the engineering manager is an idiot, Microsoft has ten times as many engineers working on it, I’m overworked, I don’t get enough direction. Our CEO doesn’t make these kinds of excuses and neither should the CEO of a product.

  • Good product managers think in terms of delivering superior value to the marketplace during product planning and achieving market share and revenue goals during the go-to-market phase. Bad product managers get very confused about the differences between delivering value, matching competitive features, pricing and ubiquity. Good product managers decompose problems. Bad product managers combine all problems into one.

You can read the entire excerpt from his blog here.

While it was written for Product Managers some years back, the same concepts are still relevant to your current role. In a nutshell, take ownership. Stop with the excuses. If something doesn't work, be that someone to go fix it.

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