My name is Nils Davis. On this blog I share insights and experience I’ve gained over 20 years of practicing and studying software product management. I have both a less sanguine view of product management plus a more extravagant view of its meaning. I’m most interested in the specific challenges that arise because product management is a complex domain and discipline. I delight in exploring how complexity arises and ways to address it.
Product management is not like other disciplines – management, sales, marketing, development, etc. And I don’t put much store in techniques that are meant to address those merely complicated domains (e.g., project management), because they don’t work well in the face of the complexity of product management. In short, I don’t think a machine is going to take over our job any time soon! In the product management world we constantly struggle to understand how products are successful, and why some are not successful despite the best efforts of our colleagues, while others succeed despite “doing everything wrong.”
And, especially when you’re talking about software product management, it’s about managing air, or something even less substantial. Software doesn’t obey the laws of physics, which is why software engineering is so different (at minimum) than other engineering disciplines.
Everyone wants a product management process, as though “process” were the magic missing piece the lack of which keeps products from being successful. But the reality is that “process,” with its implications of being a way to manage something complicated, breaks down when faced with complexity. To handle complexity, you need preparation and the ability to respond with creativity. For an example from a very harsh part of the real world, Navy SEALs are the masters of complexity. They train and train, and plan and plan, but the main thing their training and planning prepares them for is working outside the plan and inventing ways to respond to new situations as they happen.
You can also follow me on Twitter as @nilsie.