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Be a Product Manager, NOT a Product Janitor

Be a Product Manager, NOT a Product Janitor™

We’ve been consulting and training inside of companies worldwide for over fourteen years, and one thing we noticed is a trend. Since Product Management is often not well-defined or well understood (see the Product Management Manifesto and our white paper on Product Management versus Product Marketing for help communicating this in your company), oftentimes other groups will constantly “assign” or defer work to the Product Manager on the team. The result is that the product manager’s task list fills up rapidly with many tasks that really shouldn’t be their responsibility.

We call this phenomenon “becoming a product janitor.” Instead of working on the critical things that will make a big difference for your product and thinking strategically, the product manager ends up doing thankless low-level work that is not appreciated (and many times not necessary.)

To avoid this try applying some of the things from our book, 42 Rules of Product Management. And remember, the MOST important word that a product manager (and not a product janitor) uses is the word “NO!” For tips on saying NO effectively see our previous blog post.

4 Responses to Be a Product Manager, NOT a Product Janitor

  1. John Watridge Feb 22, 2012 at 6:34 pm #

    This is interesting article and close to what we are doing.

  2. Jayant Thakre Feb 23, 2012 at 4:13 am #

    Well said! The problem is that there are always way too many people in the company who don’t understand what Product Management is so they want Product Manager to clean up their ****. To be an effective Product Manager, one needs to be extra cautious.

  3. Abhay Feb 24, 2012 at 6:22 am #

    largely happens when tactical activities overshadow a strategic initiatives. Short term goals for earning today’s bread n butter suddenly becomes top priority. Product Manager (or PM team) must draw a line to determine where to stop. There will always be a reason to do thankless job but remain committed & focused on strategic course.


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