Three Things I Had to Unlearn as a Product Manager

Paweł Huryn
3 min readJun 19, 2022

Have you noticed that most content on product management is focused on what “to do?” However, the biggest challenge for me was unlearning the behaviors I learned at the beginning of my career.

Here are the top three “unlearnings”:

Stop obsessing over the solutions

As a former software developer, I often felt like going straight to the solution. When I talked with customers, I immediately mapped their needs in my head into entities, interfaces, and solution architecture.

As a product manager, focus on understanding the problem, your customers, and your users. What are their concerns, goals, aspirations, fears, and ambitions? What are their values and beliefs? What are the outcomes they deeply care about?

Here you can learn more about what customers need:

Resist the temptation to define tasks

As a former programmer working with the waterfall methodology, it seemed natural to me to define and assign tasks and monitor their implementation. After all, that’s what my superiors did.

Regardless of your experience, this is not the PM’s job. More importantly, this way, you will never build a motivated team that will feel co-responsible for the results.

Instead, empower your teams. Co-create the vision and goals (WHY, WHAT), and let your teams decide HOW best to achieve them.

Here you can learn more about leadership:

Embrace the uncertainty

While still in school, we learn to think about right and wrong answers. If we make a mistake, we probably haven’t done our homework and should try a little harder next time, right?

That’s not the case in complex knowledge work. No matter how much time you spend planning, the solution will never be perfect. Create a safe environment in which teams run experiments. Use prototypes to get maximum validated learning with minimal effort. Deliver often, in small iterations, to get stakeholder and customer feedback.

Here you can learn more about empiricism:

Conclusions

I started as a software developer. Of course, every person is different, but the pattern remains the same. The skills that allow us to advance as experts in a specific field often do not translate into product management skills.

And what are your top “unlearnings”?

Liked this story?

There is a lot more unique product content I publish only on Substack. Check my product newsletter, with actionable tips and advice for PMs: 👇

--

--