Elevator Speech For Product Management

In response to The Future of Product Management is in a Movement article, which was also published on LinkedIn, Derek Mitchell commented:

"Where's the elevator pitch for product management? If we can't say it concisely then we won't be clearly identified and the world and we will be confused. 'If a product was a ship, its captain would be the product manager' works for me, but then I have a clear idea what a captain of a ship, yacht, or dinghy does."

This article provides an elevator speech for the product management profession and for the product manager role.

Elevator Speech Concept
An elevator speech (a.k.a. elevator pitch or elevator statement) is a simple, clear, brief, and carefully constructed statement that describes and defines an idea, person, company, product, or just about anything. In the context of business, the elevator speech often contains a value proposition but the value offered could be inferred from or explicitly stated in the elevator speech.

The elevator speech gets its name from an imaginary scenario in which you find yourself riding in an office building elevator alongside someone that you need to impress (e.g. a CEO who may hire you for a job) or explain something to (e.g. an investor who may fund your startup). An elevator speech is generally no more than 100 words and should take about 20-30 seconds to convey.

Objectives and Considerations
Mr Mitchell is correct. A preliminary step to elevating the discipline and the profession of product management is by having a clear and succinct explanation of what product management is and what the role of a product manager is. It would also be helpful if the substantiated explanation were memorable and persuasive.

An elevator speech is meant to inform rather than thoroughly educate. This means that the fully rationalized methodological foundation rules of product management are inappropriate here and what is needed is a more flexible and broad definition that will find appeal with many. Precision is going to give way in the interest of overwhelming clarity.

In order to do so, the elevator speech will reflect what arguably is the most critical and primary activity which resides at the very core of product management - the key activity that is most identified with product management. This will primarily hinge on the methodological argument of Problem Space vs. Solution Space relative to product management.

Elevator Speech for Product Management
Based on the stated objectives and considerations, the elevator speech for Product Management is:

"Product management is a market-focused corporate activity that uncovers potentially profitable market problems and communicates them in proper format to the company's product developers who then specify and build solutions to those problems."

As Mr Mitchell metaphorically suggests, the Product Manager is indeed the captain in charge of the Product Management activity ship. Therefore, the elevator speech for Product Manager is:

"The product manager is a market expert who seeks potentially profitable market problems and describes them to product developers."

These explanations provide a macro and micro view of product management. It is now possible to augment these elevator speeches with supporting clarifications. This would mean adding statements such as "product management owns the problem and product development owns the solution" or "product managers describe customer needs and the developers respond with product features".

These elevator speeches also embody and reiterate the critical arguments that (1) product management is a specialization, not a generalization, and that (2) product management is autonomous and not part of marketing or product development.

Exclusions and Disqualifiers
It is important to describe what product management is but even more important, given all the confusion and misinterpretation that abound product management, to explain what product management is not.

Product management does not include responsibilities that strictly belong to product development, software development, project management, program management, system/product architecture, product design, user experience, product manufacturing, product logistics, product launches, release management, scrum product ownership, profit and loss accountability, etc. There is no such thing as Lean Product Management, Agile Product Management, UX Product Management, etc. All these deviations and defective role aggregations that are often attributed to product management are the skewed outcome of ignorance, workplace politics, or budgetary concerns.

The reasons why many unrelated activities are irresponsibly tacked to product management are thoroughly explained in The Fallacy of Generalizing article. The forces that are responsible for perpetuating inconsistent definitions of product management are detailed in the Misconceptions about Product Management article.

The outlined elevator speeches concisely convey the very essence of product management and draw their credence from a methodological foundation.