Posted by Tom Grant on January 21, 2009
I've been enjoying Christopher Cumming's product management blog, Product Management Meets Popular Culture. His most recent post, "Product Managers: Can You Reject Narcissism?" deserves special attention.
Most product management aficianados opine, at some point, about the importance of product passion. You need to love your product. You need to embrace it, nurture it, defend it, extol its virtues to other people. If your product fails, maybe you didn't believe in it enough. (You probably killed Tinkerbell, too, you unfeeling bastard.) If the product succeeds, you can bask in the afterglow, and then maybe have a cigarette.
If that sounds a little creepy, maybe it's worth re-evaluating your relationship with your product. I'm exaggerating for effect, but that's only because the word "passion" is vague, and exhortations to have product passion often sound pretty overheated.
That's what makes Cummings' post worth reading. Passion can easily mutate into something ugly, which can have bad consequences for the product manager, the object of the product manager's affections, and the company.
For example, if you've worked in a big company, you've no doubt attended at least one cross-group meeting in which PMs fight for their products' interests. These discussions can be constructive, but they can also turn into the tech industry equivalent of a child beauty pageants, with the passionate PMs playing the role of the stage mothers. No one wins in this arena, least of all the PM who may have just destroyed any chance of working productively with other PMs. Organizations change, PMs move between groups...Who knows who your co-worker, or your boss, will be, two or three years from now?
Therefore, perhaps we should pick a different metaphor for product management. Instead of lovers, PMs need to be patriots. Both lovers and patriots feel strong ties and obligations. Both risk letting their emotions run out of control. The important difference is, while we understand and forgive lovers who give into these urges, we expect a bit more sangfroid from patriots.