Good Product Manager vs Bad Product Manager: How to become a good one?

When you speak about choosing a profession there are so many sources where you can find skills and techniques which can help you to get knowledge or develop them to become a professional.

When you take your first steps and start to learn new things you realize that you are getting better and better every time. Then, when you start working and meet new professionals you start to analyze who are the bad and good ones.

Today we are going to talk about good and bad product managers. Let’s understand the most common difference between good and bad product managers. Most people working in the Tech sphere describe product managers as chameleons, because they know how to adapt to different perspectives and lenses.

One thing is clear: Product management is pivotal in the success of any business unit. Anyone who ever tried himself in the product management sphere would probably read Ben Horowitz’s essay “Good Product Manager/Bad Product Manager”. In this article we are going to mark the main points of an essay and add some new ones from our interview with our Trainer. 

When we analyze the essay we can easily take the main 5 points which are describing the good product manager.

A good one is:

  • CEO of the product
  • Balance all important factors
  • Clear, written communication with product development
  • Clear goals and advantages
  • Focus on the sales force and customers

CEO of the product
When we say a Good Product Manager is the CEO of the product, we mean that they take full responsibility for the product. They are the one who takes all the risks for the right product, right time and all that entails. A good product manager takes responsibility for devising and executing a winning plan.


Unlike the good ones, Bad Product Managers have lots of excuses. Not enough funding, the team is not professional, work can’t be done on time because they are overworked etc. They have excuses for everything they do, like someone forced them to do that work. 


So, Good Product Managers take responsibility for success and for failure of the product, features, and ideas that they shepherd through the process, even when they’re not their own.


Good Product Managers take all important factors into consideration. As CEO of the product, the product manager must understand and balance a wide variety of factors that affect product strategy and execution.

Balance all important factors.

Here are the primary factors to balance:

Company goals & capabilities.

Good Product Managers understand overall company goals and set product strategy in that context. Good product managers also know what their company wants to have after that product, what kind of marketing resources the company will spend on these products. Good product managers don’t always know the answer to these questions, but they know enough to ask.

Customer demand. 

Good Product Managers listen to customers and they know what customers can & will pay for the product on which they are working. They do a lot of research for absolutely everything. Good product managers are certain that if they build a certain product, customers will buy it. Good product managers understand that if they screw this up, they might as well pack it in so they go the extra mile to make sure they get this right. 


Good Product Managers understand all the factors of the competition and know where the competitors can go easily and can’t go at all. They know exactly: “The product needs to either be different or have some differences, or they will fail”.

Clear, written communication with product development

Good Product Managers clearly define product requirements

One of the most important skills for a product manager is to define clearly with necessary details what a product should do. They don’t forget to specify critical information and make sure everyone understands. 

They define a clear product vision and target that empowers each teammate, because they know that each of them is an individual who thinks and works in their own way, so they need an individual way to be explained. Good Product Managers are respected by their teams.

Written and verbal communication skills help Product Managers to easily be in contact with the whole team and communicate with them in their own way to succeed.

Bad Product Managers cut corners on communication with the team or misunderstand their role. Bad product managers specify the how not the what. Bad product managers worry about specifying every feature in detail thinking they know more about how to solve a problem or how the product should behave. Bad product managers put off hard decisions until the end of the product cycle. They can’t communicate with the team easily and that causes real problems.

They don’t analyze the work and that’s why they mostly fail.

Clear goals and advantages

Good Product Managers have clear goals. They are absolutely committed to success and define success as achieving explicit goals. Goals that are important are written down. They are setting goals not only for team members and products but for themselves.

Good Product Managers know the advantages and disadvantages of their product.This comprises a key part of the overall product vision from day one. Good product managers have these advantages written down and are consistent.

Bad Product Managers. They have no goals and no product advantages, or they are not concretized. They hesitate when asked for the advantages of their product. Bad product managers have inconsistent product positioning and advantages change from time to time.

Focus on the sales force and customers

Good Product Managers are loved by the salesforce. Good Product Managers know that if the sales force doesn’t like their product, they will fail.
They will be known personally or by reputation by at least half the salesforce. Good Product Managers know that to win over the sales force they need to have some combination of skills to be trusted by the sales team and make a product succeed. 


Good Product Managers know and understand customers. Good product managers

know their potential customers personally. Good product managers understand the exact dynamics of real customer situations.

Bad Product Managers don’t have time for the salesforce or customers. They focus on their product and competitors and aren’t sure what’s going on in the field. Bad Product Managers are boring presenters. Bad Product Managers talk about how future products will be great, but the current products are weak. Bad Product Managers don’t care about customers.


Excerpt from our discussion with our Product Management course trainer Hrant Sedrakyan.

For him there are 4 main points that help us to separate good from bad Product Managers.

1.Good Product Managers focus mostly on customers, research, data, vision but the Bad Product Managers focus mostly on execution, timelines, feature delivery.


  1. Good Product Managers listen to customers’ needs. They probe deeper into the underlying problems to get at the customer’s compelling value proposition. Bad Product Managers listen to feature requests and jump to execution 


  1. Good Product Managers rely on data, research, and analytics for decision making. Bad Product Managers rely mostly on gut feeling, guessing, and competitors actions


  1. Good Product Managers prioritize features well Bad Product Managers put everything into one basket.


So here we have the most common and important points which describe the difference between Good Product Managers and Bad Product Managers. Save them to become a good one or to realize if you are working with the right Product Manager to succeed. 


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