Today I’m joined by Linda Gorchels a professor at the University of Wisconsin Madison and the author of several books on product management (as well as other topics). Her latest book is entitled Business Model Renewal.
It’s a pleasure to have you here today Linda.
Let’s start by delving into the area of product manager training on the academic front. What’s the current state of academic training for product managers from your perspective?
(Linda Gorchels) That’s an interesting question Greg, since “academic” training comes in many forms. While there are the traditional venues of undergraduate and graduate (for-credit) education, there is also a large professional development (non-credit) segment of academic education. Let’s take a look at the credit-side.
Most reputable universities with BBA degrees cover product management as part of their curriculum (at least in marketing), and many have courses in product management at the graduate level. The University of Wisconsin Madison is notable for its specialization in Brand and Product Management for the daytime MBA. We also, through the school’s executive program, have several offerings that constitute a Professional Development Certificate in product management.
That being said, successful product managers generally have strong industry and technical knowledge (e.g., engineering, medical, science, etc.) in addition to the required business and marketing strategy skills. A high percentage of my executive education customers from this segment have technical (undergraduate) degrees that they supplement with management and marketing knowledge to transition to product management.
What do you think needs to be done to increase the likelihood that academic institutions will more broadly adopt product management training curriculum’s at the undergraduate or graduate levels?
(Linda Gorchels) Product management is truly a multi-functional (as well as cross-functional) discipline. I sometimes liken the position to that of a team quarterback – a person who can play the game as well as make decisions. Therefore, having dual majors (or at lease a major and a minor) in the technical and business disciplines is often desirable.
Do you think the ProdBOK Guide could help spur the development of academic training programs for product managers as has occurred in other professions?
(Linda Gorchels) As I mentioned in my answer, product management is multi-functional. While many marketing, strategy, and management principles may be transferable across industries, that’s not always the case with the technical side. (In other words, not all quarterbacks make good hockey or baseball players.) So it’s important to distinguish between common and unique job requirements.
Why did you decide to contribute to the ProdBOK effort Linda?
(Linda Gorchels) Since I have studied product management across a myriad of industries over the past two decades, I have observed mistakes made when individuals try to transfer EVERYTHING about their view of product management from one industry to another. (I was even guilty of that initially from my personal experiences as a product manager.) It takes a broad, multi-industry perspective to identify the product manager competencies that are common across arenas and those that are more relevant to one arena. I hope I helped convey that perspective.
Any final thoughts?
(Linda Gorchels) Given the nuances I talked about, I strongly urge product managers to think less in terms of templates and “fill-in-the-box” solutions, and more in terms of innovation and novel solutions for challenges faced by their customers. This is especially difficult when product managers are “sucked into” daily fire-fighting, but this orientation is critical from a strategic perspective.
You can learn more about Linda by clicking here.
Editors Note: (Disclaimer) I’m an adjunct professor at DePaul University’s College of Computing and Digital Media where I teach graduate and undergraduate courses on product management.
Greg Geracie is a recognized thought leader in the field of product management and the President of Actuation Consulting, a global provider of product management consulting, training, and advisory services to some of the world’s most well-known organizations. Greg is also the author of the global best seller Take Charge Product Management. He is also an adjunct professor at DePaul University’s College of Computing and Digital Media where he teaches graduate and undergraduate courses on high-tech and digital product management.
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