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Friday, March 2, 2012

Product Managers, are you Ageing? - know yourself

This post has nothing to do with your age, but yes it has lot to do with you showing signs of ageing as Product Manager. Are you fit to represent your market & own the product? Or your reflections are slowly but gradually losing the promptness. Ageing product manager often works in reactive mode (read working modes) hence it is of paramount importance for you as a product manager to know yourself as it is to know the opportunity you work on.

The first signs of aging will come from external source, people / team you work with, folks who are internal and external stake holders of product / LOB you manage as Product Manager. Sensing these signs early on is critical else you get push into an abyss. While many may consider reactions from this close peer group as negative I consider this as friendly as they alert you well in time, so thank them.

If you are ageing, first thing you will notice is non-welcoming gestures from peer group, in words, mails or in body language. These are early signs and are largely inconsistent, you better pick them ASAP. Repairing is easier at this juncture then in subsequent stages.

Next is resistance that you will often face during discussions that often ends up in no conclusion. Such resistance may or may not be logical, they may be unnecessary (often for silly things) and will upset you. Point here is that you don’t try n convince too much but try n get to the root cause of such behavior (reaction from peers). 

The last thing that you will experience is peers by-passing you for key or important decisions. Such decisions will be taken in consent with your manager or is positioned in a way that product management involvement was not necessary. They will always have a valid reason for doing so though.

While knowing that you are ageing is important, it is equally important to understand where you are ageing;
  1. Ageing at product level
  2. Ageing at organization level
  3. Ageing at thought process

Ageing at Product level
Fundamentally a product manager performs best when he falls in love with the concept (need or opportunity) that is cause for the existence of his product. Ageing at product level happens when product managers lose interest or confidence in this very cause. The domain no more attracts him & his reflections becomes unresponsive on hearing anything about his domain. This could happen due to long association with product or product itself becoming patchy due to long unplanned releases and large floating versions for which a product manager starts believing that he has no solution.

In such scenarios a product manager must first understand the reason of his lack of interest in product and if he gets convinced should he try and move to a different product line or work with peer groups to resolve the issue that keeps him disinterested in his product.

Ageing at Organization level
Most likely you will be in the last set of people who would realized that you are ageing at organization level, means you are now misfit in the organization and you really need to do some introspection. You may not like this but chances are high that you are struggling to fit into   organization culture. You fail to appreciate the need to change and cultivate the culture of changing organization. Its highly likely that you are stuck in time, you are in a comfort zone that does not allow you to accept few straight facts. Go for a vacation, do some recreational activities and if none works than change job.

Ageing at thought process
You are running out of thoughts - a dangerous situation for a product manager to be in. This could be due to one of the earlier two ageing reasons or simply due to the reason that you are not up-to-date with trends. You are not working on yourself, your lenses (vision) are getting older. A product manager must continuously work on himself, learning & exercising the learning is a must, probably you have stopped doing both. It is easy as well tough to get out of this ageing point because it totally depends on your will power & mental strength.

Exercise and excel is the way to go forward, 2nd (excel) does not come without 1st (exercise). Regular exercise (professional growth) will elevate your working mode (read working modes). Ageing is common issue and smart professional will get out of it, but only if he realizes that he is ageing. You keep a tap on things around you, results are best when correction happens initial phase.


  1. ‘Ageing’ can be a worrying position to find oneself in but great to hear your pragmatic tips on overcoming it. I’m sure it’s a position all but the most super-human of managers has experienced at some point. There are so many ways to get back the motivation, get control of your process and your product and get back on your feet. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Hmm.. Very interesting thoughts. Well written.
    I think that this applies to people at all levels (not necessarily a Product Manager)
    Question: How often should one introspect and on what all aspects?
    I guess a small introspection on this question will itself yield the right answer.

    1. Thanks scrumguru - I would say start with observation. Catch non-usual behavior early on and than try and figure out what action of yours (or someone else) could have caused such an action, try n correct it and forget it. STOP Here unless you see non-usual behavior too often and by few others. Here drill deeper down and introspect.

  3. This post is cross-posted on product mantra ( Read for more insights on various aspects around product (from conceptualization to EOL)