The Essential Parts of Product Management

Recently I saw a video posted by, where a skilled team broke down and rebuilt a 1946 Jeep in four minutesIt was amazing to watch the precision and cadence of the team and you knew they had practiced this many times.

The post also mentioned one of the early nicknames for the JEEPJust Enough Essential Parts. 

Thinking about the cadence of the teams actions, I started to consider What are just enough essential parts for product management? 

Below are a few ideas that I believe should be essential parts to product management.    

Team (an action-oriented verb)

While many of us focus on team as a noun, its my opinion that the verb (to participate or assist in a joint effort to accomplish an end) is where product management must excel.

It doesn’t make a difference if you’re a team of one or many, or who you report to in the organization, it makes a difference if you understand:

  • Contribution and value and how it aligns with the business.
  • Actions in your control and what responsibilities make a difference.
  • How you adapt your actions to change
  • Focus on moving your business forward, not just your products. 

What essential parts do you envision yourself contributing as product management? This is a question I have asked myself and those in teams over the years. Take some time to regularly ask yourself how you are participating, supporting and contributing in your role.  Then take a look at the team around you. This is a great starting point.

Technique (the moving parts)

Over the past five years, I’ve personally observed, worked with or interviewed almost  two hundred product management organizations. In all my conversations, one common challenge has emerged. Product management struggles with the moving parts.

Why? I believe it lacks a process defined specifically for product management. Not a process that was handed down or was modified from something previous or prescribed by another organization, but one that aligns to the business execution in place today.

You may be thinking, “How can he say that? We have a bunch of templates, documents and stuff to help us deliver, isn’t that a process?” While these are essential pieces for product management, most are simply conversation vehicles, not a process.    

Then, what are the essential parts of a product management process? I feel there are three key elements that should be considered. They include:

  • Market Knowledge – Things starting with WHY
  • Business Strategy – Things that lead to WHAT and HOW
  • Market Delivery – Things that speak to WHEN and WHERE

While I won’t spend time describing these elements, a simple, well-communicated process creates a viable foundation for product management and the business. It adds new action, predictability and a sandbox for each contributor and team to practice. It also provides a united voice, a basic common language, and a sustainable translator creating authority and credibility for the team. Additionally, it provides leadership with a vehicle to measure value.

In the article Measurement-Driven Product Management, Mike Smart shares, “Success in building high performance teams begins with using measurements that give visibility about the overall effectiveness and efficiency of the team.”

I have experienced the “before and after” effects and influences a process has on product management. It can be quite dramatic if managed and evolved with the team and business in mind. Before initiating a process for product management, leaders should consider: 

  1. Who will be responsible for defining, documenting, communicating and refining the process?
  2. Who will champion and nurture the teams alignment to it?
  3. What measurements will be used and how will they be communicated to the team, executives and peer organizations?

Without an owner and champion (that resides in product management), the moving parts may be assembled like the picture below.

While this is still a Jeep, it’s not not driveable and limited in its actions and what it can sustain.

As you look at what are just enough essential parts of product management I hope you will look for elements that strengthen and build product management contribution and action.

As always, comments and opinions are welcome. You can contact me at jholland(at) or on Twitter at jim(underscore)holland.

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  • […] the essential parts of product management What essential parts do you envision yourself contributing as product management? This is a question I have asked myself and those in teams over the years. Take some time to regularly ask yourself how you are participating, supporting and contributing in your role. Then take a look at the team around you. This is a great starting point. […]

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