The project manager / product manager relationship
Sure we know that effective collaboration leads to improved outcomes and more effective teamwork. But what specific functional collaborations are key in triggering creativity, problem solving, fostering further team communication, and ultimately improving project outcomes? Just putting everyone together in a room at project inception doesn’t necessarily guarantee success.
From my experience, the most successful product development projects were those that had the product manager and project manger tightly coupled from the very beginning. Spending more time developing this relationship from the onset will pay dividends and increase the likelihood of project success.
If we can agree that the goal of a product development project is to create, develop, and deliver a product to the market, maximizing its value – the customer benefit and experience – while ensuring the return on investment (ROI). Then, nothing ensures maximizing ROI more than getting the definition correct at the onset of a project. Knowing where you’re going and how to get there, at the beginning of the life cycle, eliminates waste by avoiding unnecessary course corrections throughout a project.
Leveraging the expertise of project managers at the earliest phases of a project helps to get this definition correct by bringing their best practices and lessons learned to the table at a critical juncture – the start of the project. Engaging project managers early has additional benefits: (1) Project ownership is now ingrained into its leaders because they have helped shape the execution approach; (2) By working together to form the overall project definition in the beginning of its life cycle, the foundation of a team dynamic is put in place that spills over into the rest of the project organization as it is put together.
Product managers and project managers can strengthen this relationship by understanding three fundamental concepts from the beginning of every project:
- The product development and project life cycles are deeply intertwined
- The product’s production process needs to be collaboratively defined with clarification of the major deliverables and resources required to get the job done
- Shared incentives, performance objectives, and success criteria establish common ground for the entire team
Each one of these three concepts warrants its own discussion so I’m going to treat each one of these as separate blog postings. This should allow for more focused commentary allowing the concepts to be completely hashed out.