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Dear Product Manager — Don’t fall in love with your Product!


A teary-eyed heartbroken kid, who once dropped his ice -cream cone, said to me — “Never get attached to anything in life”. Truer words were never spoken before!

Fast forward to the time when I joined a company as a Product Manager, my hiring manager and others told me to consider the product as my own baby, think of myself as the mini-CEO of the product and few other idioms. Boy, didn’t it feel good to hear those catchy phrases!

I took those words directly to my heart, brain, blood vessels and imbibed it in my soul (may sound dramatic, but I am a passionate person!). Every morning, noon, evening and night I would login to the test portal of the product I was in-charge of, spend a lot of time getting my hands dirty and playing with it. Initially, I would not understand the flow and question the other PMs, dev’s and testing team on the functionality. They would explain me how the functionality works and what was the motivation for developing such a feature. I slowly started getting proficient in the product as I started to know the in and out of how the feature worked and what problems it solved and what was the use case for building it.

This was my moment of being in the fore-front and handling queries from internal and external teams, thinking about the product roadmap and the new features I had to build or enhance the existing ones. In the initial days, I had developed empathy towards customer requests and use to understand their woes. I would come out with various solutions to make their life easier. Some of these would get into the product pipeline, some rejected by engineering team due to technical limitations and others due to the sheer size of efforts involved. Eventually, as my grip on the product increased, I started driving it my way. This seemed healthy at the first glance but deep in my heart I knew that I have started falling in LOVE with my product.

Being in ‘Love’ with your product isn’t that bad, right? Here are a few instances I am sure most of us Product Managers (who do not know that we are secretly in love and obssesed with our product) would be doing subconsciously when confronted with such situations:

  1. Defend or promote those ridiculous work-around that exists in the product! You know deep in your heart that it is a bad design and the functionality requires to be developed.
  2. Inform the ‘messenger’ who brings the ‘Client’ feedbacks that the feature is working as expected and it is the first time you are hearing about such problems.
  3. Drawing comparisons with competitors — ‘Why should we do it when the competitors are not doing it’
  4. Drawing comparisons with competitors — ‘Why aren’t we doing it when our competitors are doing or have done it’
  5. Justifying the incorrect logic to internal teams or Clients because you have got too much used to how the product is working in the current capacity.
  6. Build flows or features that are complex in nature. You assume with your blind faith that everyone can understand it because ‘you’ are able to.
  7. Act as if you are the real voice of your customer but you are singing your own tune or an influential team/member’s tune.
  8. Implement a feature that ‘you’ feel is important but isn’t backed by data or logic(may be due to point 7)
  9. Not accepting defeat or failure when your feature/product fails. Instead come up with excuses and explanations supporting your actions why you feel this is the best feature ever launched!(sometimes showing skewed data to support your cause).
  10. Dislike the people who criticise you or disagree with your ideas!

Being able to detach from your product is very difficult. Many PMs, like me, have confused their feeling of love or obsession with the passion for developing a great product. When we are emotionally attached or in love with what we have built, we become this over-protective parent who would shield and avoid any negative comments about our creation, because we feel that our product is so much better than anything else!

The point is - always maintain a distance with your product. This does not mean that you don’t use or see your product daily. It means you ask yourself some hard questions(cue: the 10 points mentioned above) before committing to a feature.

A true victory for a PM is to be passionately unattached to your product and see it with a logical and an unbiased viewpoint.

Sometimes, it’s okay to go with your gut :)