Our executive sponsor at a long-time client used to start off every Grassroots Strategy session by telling the teams to put a jar in the middle of their table and every time someone mentioned the word ‘product’ they had to put $5 in it. She told them that she was sure that every team would be able to throw a pretty good party by the end of the week with the money they collected. Her point was that they needed to focus on the customer and the problems that they could solve for customers rather than on their product. Professor Theodore Levitt said it best decades ago when he said, “People don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill. They want a quarter-inch hole.”
Is it time to take the ‘product’ out of product management?
Frequently, we are asked to tailor our ‘Grassroots Strategy’ workshops to serve as training for product managers. Typically, the identified need is a lack of strategic thinking and/or tools for analyzing markets in a company’s product manager group. Beneath the surface, however, we believe that the problem may run deeper. The problem may be grounded in the very definition of what a product manager is and therefore what the rest of the organization expects from them.