How to Become the World's Worst Product Manager in 9 Easy Steps

1. Don't visit customers. If customers want to talk to you, ask that instead they put their list of enhancement requests in an email or a spreadsheet. Take said list and cut/paste it into Jira. Don't bother to find out WHY the customer wants any of this stuff.  If your bosses pressure you to talk to more customers to validate your plans, send  out a 300 question survey. If no customers respond, it must mean they all agree with everything you plan.

2. Don't learn how to use your product, because you're too consumed with being a high-level "visionary" (albeit a visionary who never defines and articulates a true product vision) to be concerned with such details. Plus you're far too elegant a gentleman/lady to eat your own dog food.

3. Become an email router.  Insist that the field write you emails (no phone calls!) whenever they have technical  product questions.  Forward those emails directly to selected developers.  When they answer, forward the email directly to the original asker.

But BE CAREFUL. For this to work correctly, you MUST insist that the sales folk NEVER EVER contact developers directly, and vice versa.  YOU must always be the intermediary, even though you're just an email router.  Take care NOT to add any value to the exchange, such as translating detailed techno-blah-blah speak into Sales-friendly English.

ADVANCED MOVE: Remove the email headers and other identifying info prior to forwarding emails, so that the sales reps can't wise up and contact developers directly. This move makes it look like YOU were the one who actually answered the questions! Congrats!  Also, make sure you don't send all your questions to the same developer, or soon he/she will be on to your little scheme.

4. Over-engineer a small part of your job and do it to the hilt, ignoring every thing else. For example, spend at LEAST 150 hours developing product training for Sales.  And then schedule at least NINE different 2-hour time slots to give the training, so that each sales rep can pick and choose his/her favorite time slot from the nine. This will make training completely occupy your time for almost 2 months, giving you an excuse for never getting around to your product strategy.  And -- best of all -- you get to complain about being SO overworked!

5. Decide what features are in and out of a release based on one overly simplistic measure, like the number of customers requesting X in the bug tracking system. Don't worry about whether the request is actually an implementation-level detail and a kludge at that. Don't worry about whether your product is actually solving the underlying problems that the customer has.  Don't worry about whether the feature has broad applicability to your target markets.  Because that would require you actually know what your target markets are, and you're too busy with #3 (over-engineering a small part of your job).

6. Whenever you are forced to get customer feedback, call that one fanboy customer who thinks everything your company produces is pure gold, because his resume is so wrapped around your company's technology that he would have serious career problems if you changed course.  He's so TOTALLY representative of your customer base, as well as your future target markets, right?  And thus he is a wicked awesome source of unvarnished feedback, validation, and advice.

7. Get into an pissing contest with a technology analyst.  Talk down to the analyst and disagree with everything he/she says.  Because those Gartner/Forrester types just LOVE it when you downplay their expertise.  They are such an ego-free bunch that they'll actually appreciate your product EVEN MORE if you call them idiots to their faces.

8. Go around saying stuff like "explain this technical concept to me as if I were a 5-year old,"  because that's the way to get the respect of Development.  They don't mind at all if the person laying out the future direction for their child (aka their product)  seems to have the mental capacity of Paris Hilton.

9. Be a complete jerk to your fellow product managers.  Monopolize team meetings with your concerns.  Don't let anyone else speak.  Pontificate at length! Undermine the broader product line vision in order to elevate your product at the expense of the others. Blame as much stuff as you can on the other PMs. Undermine their credibility in front of Development, and later in front of Marketing and Sales....But watch out if one of them becomes your boss one day.

Sue Raisty

Product management geek, born-again engineer, adoptive mother of boys, coach & mentor, mountain trail runner, tinkerer, no-bull communicator, wannabe writer, room mother & compulsive researcher.

Silicon Valley, California