Being a major cinephile, one of my all-time favorite movies happens to be Se7en, in which Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman track down a serial killer who used the seven deadly sins (of Christian religious ethics) as his reasoning. In our line of work (product management) we don’t really have to go to confession, or even worse, end up in product purgatory (aka project management) when we perform one of the following sins, but it would be great if we could just not do them.
You’ve probably done it once or twice. Product managers are optimistic in their nature and they want to get more and more out of their product, so they may try to deliver something without making sure it’s in line with their product strategy (maybe a client asked them to do it) or they may even deliver something that will increase (in their mind) their product’s capabilities without thinking before if it is something the product should be doing.
Best case: The new capability will be used in a way you didn’t intend it to.
Worst case: The new capability will damage other, existing functionality.
This is the classic mistake (I know I’m guilty of it) that happens when you work with a really strong and motivated development team and you decide to push ‘just one more feature’ to the next release without fully understating the need for it. You’re doing it just because you can.
Best case: This behavior will cause your product to be overloaded for the release since clients can only ‘handle’ so many changes at once.
Worst case: Your product will be filled with garbage features, which makes it ‘unusable’.
Most of us feel like each day is a new challenge and we face many new and different problems that our product should be solving. Some product managers however feel like they have no problems. Their product is doing very well, they feel like the most they need to do is take some requests from clients and it is smooth sailing from there. This is a very dangerous situation for a person whose sole function is being a problem solver. I’m not saying you should invent problems! But trust me, they are always out there when you proactively go and look for them.
Best case: When product managers are not actively engaging in problems they may find that their job is less interesting.
Worst case: PMs may feel that their product is less relevant and competition is stealing their clients.
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So you know how sometimes you are not happy with the R&D team deliveries? Out of your anger and frustration on them, you just stop asking them to deliver features A+B+C, and you’ll ask for A+ half of B. This is bad news for everyone, since usually people like to be challenged and you’ll be able to get them to excel only if you’ll push them further (this is one of the main challenges a PM faces as a leader without hierarchic authority).
Best case: Not pushing further will keep you feeling mediocre.
Worst case: Not challenging R&D will give you high blood pressure from the frustration.
Yes, the competition’s product may have some features you don’t have. This doesn’t mean you should copy them. Sure, stay in touch with the competition and know what they can do, but make sure to have your original say and vision for your product.
Best case: You can end up being accused of plagiarism.
Worst case: You can end up copying something that’s just bad for your product and its vision.
Some product managers (sometimes with very strong intellectual abilities) tend to think they know best. Since they think their users/clients are idiots, they wouldn’t really listen to their needs and would think that they are the only ones who can come up with good ideas on what’s needed for the product to succeed.
Best case: This will lead to a product which the current clients/users do not relate to and feel very distant from.
Worst case: You can end up with a product, which is not relevant at all to the market it’s meant for.
All in all, product managers are not perfect and we all tend to commit one or more of these deadly sins. In order to find your way out of it start by acknowledging you made the mistake, own up to it, and come up with the best solution to your problem. After all, that’s what we do best: we solve problems.