A Product General Manager (PGM) is a pivotal role that most product-centric organizations struggle with. The main problems faced by these organizations include:
- Unclear Roles and Responsibilities for stakeholders
- No clear P&L ownership
- Unclear Strategic focus
- No operational excellence
PGMs are responsible for the entire life cycle of a product, from ideation to launch to post-launch maintenance and support. The role requires a unique combination of technical, business, and leadership skills, making it a challenging but rewarding career path. Best-in-class organizations like Amazon, Netflix and others emphasized hiring a GM who can make sure they are consistently obsessed with the success of their product. While there are some success stories there considering Netflix has a premier product that has shown value over time and its incremental value is amplified with a change in pricing widely accepted by the consumer. But... there are some use cases like Peloton that fell into the common trap of overindulging in quick growth (excess production of a good product without seemingly pivoting as the market changed pre to post-Covid). This is where a true GM could've changed the course while staying obsessed with the market conditions. These problems usually end up affecting the success of the product in various ways as in the example of Peloton which is now struggling to stay afloat. Most of the impact is finger pointing which leads to friction between stakeholders with executives trying to jump in and solve tactical issues. Executives must look at ways to hire a GM who is the single throat to choke in these situations.
Startup to Mid-sized companies struggles
While mature product-led organizations have figured this out with more of trial by fire. Startups to mid-sized companies which don't have the luxury of funds or time don't emphasize thinking outside the box. I have worked with numerous companies in the growth stage that end up with problems I described earlier in the article while functioning at hyperspeed. I have had the honor of helping a lot of these organizations to course correct by hiring or grooming a GM internally.
Responsibilities of a Product General Manager:
As a PGM, you will have many responsibilities to ensure the success of your product. These responsibilities include:
- Developing a Product Strategy: A PGM is responsible for developing a product strategy that aligns with the company's overall business goals. This involves identifying target markets, analyzing customer needs, and determining the product's unique value proposition.
- Managing the Product Development Process: The PGM is responsible for overseeing the product development process, including the design, development, testing, and launch of the product. This requires working closely with cross-functional teams, including engineering, design, marketing, and sales.
- Leading a Team: A PGM is responsible for leading and motivating a team of product managers, engineers, and designers. This involves setting goals, providing guidance and feedback, and ensuring that the team is working collaboratively to achieve the product's objectives.
- Driving Product Innovation: A PGM must be able to identify new product opportunities and drive innovation in existing products. This requires staying up-to-date with industry trends and technologies and continually improving the product to meet customer needs.
- Ensuring Product Success: Once a product has been launched, a PGM is responsible for ensuring its success. This includes monitoring product metrics, identifying areas for improvement, and developing strategies to increase adoption and revenue.
Skills Required to be a Product General Manager:
To be a successful PGM, you must have a range of technical, business, and leadership skills. These skills include:
- Technical Skills: A PGM must have a strong understanding of the technical aspects of the product, including software development, design, and testing.
- Business Acumen: A PGM must have a deep understanding of the company's business goals, market trends, and customer needs to develop a successful product strategy.
- Leadership Skills: A PGM must be able to lead and motivate a team of professionals and be comfortable making decisions and taking responsibility for the product's success.
- Communication Skills: A PGM must be able to communicate effectively with stakeholders, including executives, cross-functional teams, and customers, to ensure that everyone is aligned with the product's goals.
- Analytical Skills: A PGM must be able to analyze product metrics and customer feedback to identify areas for improvement and develop strategies to increase adoption and revenue.
The role requires staying up-to-date with industry trends and technologies, developing a product strategy that aligns with the company's business goals, and leading and motivating a team of professionals to achieve the product's objectives. From my experience, the right individual for this role is a sheer balance of all these aspects and comes from a strong product background. Its imperative product-led organization put the onus on hiring a GM who understands the nuances of the complexity it takes to launch/manage a best-in-class product.
Becoming a Product General Manager is a challenging but rewarding career path for those who have the necessary technical, business, and leadership skills. PGMs are responsible for the entire life cycle of a product, from ideation to launch to post-launch maintenance and support. I have worked for and with talented individuals who are well versed in general management of products with strong background in owning a P&L. Lot of startups and mid-sized companies are in the crunch to take the product to market fast and drive revenue. This is where a GM matters as the right individual with the already defined skills can help these organizations drive a strong go-to-market strategy (GTM) using a well tested playbook. In future articles, I can explain what is a product launch playbook that often times is critical to success of a GM running a product. This is a critical artifact that organizations can leverage to make sure they stay ahead of curve.
Remember, hiring a PGM is a critical decision that can have a significant impact on your organization's success. Take the time to thoroughly evaluate candidates and choose the person who has the mentioned skills, experience, and leadership qualities needed to drive innovation, growth, and customer satisfaction.
Please reach out to me if you have any questions.