Well, you would never hear a product manager introduce themselves as “Manager. Product Manager”, but there are lot of similarities in characteristics, attitudes and approach to problem solving that reminds you of James Bond or Lara Croft! Here are 10 similarities and my interpretation (with a sprinkling of advice to the uninitiated) of what it means for product managers.
1. Undying allegiance to the Queen of England = Undying allegiance to the customer!
James Bond: The overarching goals of any mission is very clear, nevermind the taunts of rogue agents and villains!
Product Managers: Having clarity at all times on why we are doing a feature or a product or a distribution partnership and how it impacts the business and customers is crucial. Not only to explain to oneself but also to anyone who asks! Keep a maniacal focus on customer delight.
2. Riding bike on roof tops in hot pursuit = Making do with scarce resources!
James Bond: He can get out of any situation when you almost thought he was cornered. Even with no weapons and in entirely alien hostile conditions, James Bond will figure out a way to beat the enemy. He is trained in martial arts, a dozen languages, deciphering body language and of course possesses immense strength and skill.
Product Managers: Not as glamorous, but aggressively prioritizing features with a deep understanding of customer needs, creating insanely delightful products with not more than 6 member teams and working really hard to meet the time to market needs is the stuff product management legends are made of.
3. Diplomatic, Passionate and Decisive = Diplomatic, Passionate and Decisive!
We are tied at the hip on this one!
James Bond: Always smooth and suave,charming and eloquent. Knows how to make the other person feel important to get the job done.
Product Managers: Diplomacy with stakeholders in selling a vision or working through the details, pushing a project for the sake of customers. And yet carrying along the team with decisions.
4. Q = Love for technology!
James Bond: James Bond loves gadgets! Especially the Aston Martin cars! However, when it comes to using them he doesn’t care about how beautiful they look. They are all deployed, even stress tested and sometimes abandoned in serving the mission!
Product Managers: Ready to tinker with new developing technology! Not afraid to break it open and understand the strengths and limitations. Still, having a firmer view that ultimately technology is an enabler. It needs to serve a bigger purpose i.e. the business needs.
5. M = Executive sponsorship
James Bond: M is the boss from whom James Bond gets instructions and to whom he is answerable on strategic and tactical outcomes of the missions. M has complete visibility into everything that is happening in other organizations including assignments given to other agents. Bond does not always listen to M. He sometimes seeks forgiveness than permission and does what he thinks is the right thing… for the Queen of England!
Product Managers: Getting executive sponsorship is crucial so to garner the right and necessary resources. PMs are answerable to their bosses – Chief Products Officer or CEO on the success of the products and the impact it has made on the lives of the customers and on the profits of the company. There are some PMs who also seek forgiveness than permission and build products with secret resources to avoid premature death of radical ideas.
6. See you out on the field = See you out in the markets!
James Bond: This is where all the action is – where conspiracies get unraveled, pursuits are hot, friends become enemies, enemies become partners and death is just a shadow away!
Product Managers: Ultimately, how many products have you shipped? How many customers have you delighted? How much revenue and profits have you brought in to your business? How did you encounter technical, business, people challenges while doing so?
7. Moneypenny = Fans and Supporters
James Bond: Moneypenny is a staunch supporter of James Bond!
Product Managers: Always creative and with a mission to delight, product managers should not ignore the need to build friendships and alliances and forge partnerships even when there is no agreement.
8. The Villain = Competition!
James Bond: Some villains are elaborately complex and some are just evil geniuses. For e.g. the guy who ran a huge criminal network just to be able to write tomorrow’s news! Lopsided cost/benefit!
Product Managers: Sounds familiar? The villain is really the complexity. If a product manager can hide the complexity behind simplicity with awesome product design, then they have beat the competition.
9. The girl who gets killed in the middle of the movie = Crossing the Chasm
My apologies if anyone is offended by this casual statement, but if you are a fan of James Bond, you know this happens all the time in the movies.
James Bond: The girl who works for the villain and who helps James Bond get close to the villain knowing fully well that she could be compromised in the bargain!
Product Managers: A product has early adopters. To think early adopters as the only market and not have the vision to grow the markets would be defeating. Product Managers need to have a deeper understanding of the market plot and craft success with appropriate differentiation strategies.
10. Bond girl rescued in the end = Happy Customers and Insane Profits!
James Bond: Beat the villain, save the world from disaster with milliseconds to go, and get the girl! Check.
Product Managers: Hmm.. let’s see.. Beat the competition, delight the customers and drive profits! Check!