The Three Core Disciplines of Product Management

13.02.2016 |

Episode #2 of the course Intro to Product Management by Ellen Chisa


Now that we’ve talked a bit about what you shouldn’t be hoping to be as a PM, let’s talk about what you should. Product Managers balance three key areas in a company: business, UX, and technology


© 2011 Martin Eriksson


This doesn’t mean that each PM is equally strong in each area. Most PMs rely heavily on a discipline that they worked in before they were PMs. A good explanation of the skills that PMs can bring from each area is:


© A Visual Vocabulary for Product Building, Dan Schmidt
image was found via, Daniel Demetri


It’s typical to start by being excellent in one of the areas and weak in the other two.

When Product Managers are looking to grow, they have three options:

• Building skills in the core of their wheelhouse. For example, a UX-focused PM getting even better at UX skills or learning how to do research studies.

• Building adjacent skills. For instance, a UX-focused PM thinking about using community management techniques to grow the user base.

• Building upon weaker skills. For instance, a UX-focused PM thinking about SEO.

In many disciplines, individuals focus on building upon their strengths. In Product Management, this can be risky. A PM who can build a lovely product but can’t get anyone to buy it won’t succeed at the core mission of their job. They need some sense of business skills or an ability to work well with strong business stakeholders. This can work if you have a balanced team of Product Managers who are strong in different disciplines.

A good way to assess what to learn next as a Product Manager (or aspiring PM) is to ask “where is the weak link in my product?” If you’re building a lovely product but it isn’t growing, time to focus on growth skills. If you’re growing like wildfire but have a ton of support tickets saying that people can’t find existing features, time to focus on user studies and discoverability.


Recommended resource

73 Articles and Books that will Make you a Great Product Manager


Recommended book

“Cracking the PM Interview: How to Land a Product Manager Job in Technology” by Gayle Laakmann McDowell and Jackie Bavaro


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