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The title “Product Manager” can mean different things in different organizations and different industry categories. But, no matter how you are organized or what you are creating, the role of the product manager is the same—i.e. leadership. If, in your company, the title product manager is given to those who track development schedules and milestones, that is better labeled “project or process management” and is not the subject here. 

If, however, the title of product manager in your company means that you will be the driving force for product development and sustained profitability, you have come to the right place.  Even in diverse industries, this start-to-finish product ownership is the same regardless of titles or structure.

In most companies, there is no natural progression to qualify a person for this multi-dimensional and critical function.  I have seen bright engineers fail because they couldn’t relate to customers, the sales force, pricing or marketing.  I have seen successful sales managers fail because they didn’t understand industrial design, engineering, or factory operations. And the list goes on.  In my experience, there are some common characteristics that successful product managers share.  Some of these, and the comprehensive nature of the list, will likely surprise you. Watch for the “McAuliffe PM Aptitude Test” coming soon to this site. It is based on years of experience observing many “talented” product managers with varied backgrounds and wildly different levels of success.  It is a great tool for self-assessment or candidate assessment in any company.  It is also a great tool for “client sessions” where the goal is to expand and enhance professional PM capabilities.  

My goal in these client sessions is not to provide the basics but, rather, more advanced concepts that will help you to reach and exceed expectations.  Think of it as “Product Management 301”.  I don’t think you will find these “not-so-obvious” principles anywhere else.

One final note: If you would like to know why, after a long career that moved me up through the organization chart, I am focused on “Concept Development and Creative Problem Solving”? The answer is simple.  Being a product manager and exceeding profitability goals in a competitive global market was the best job I ever had. It could be yours too!

Tom McAuliffe