The pulse of the company
However beautiful the strategy, you should occasionally look at the results.--Winston Churchill
Kristin Zhivago asks,
What is more important than your plan? The work your people do, and their daily interaction with your customers.
In Are you a blind CEO? Zhivago explains that a typical CEO, living in an environment far removed from customers and employees, is unlikely to understand what's really happening in the company. It's easy enough to see: many CEOs are too busy with planning and strategy to focus on daily operations. They're too involved with other senior execs to talk with the rank-and-file.
One company president systematically interviews her employees... over dinner. Once a quarter, she invites a few employees to dinner at a local restaurant and discusses what is and isn't working at the company. What recent decisions do they question? What do they think of recent changes? What do they think about the company's plan and its future? Of course, to be effective, the employees have to know that they won't be penalized later for speaking their minds. (You can see this done badly in many companies but nowhere worse than The Office episode "Performance Review.")
Does your company have a method for hearing the good and bad from the folks who do the work?
Sales people are often very good about telling you the pulse of the market--at least what they're hearing from their customers.
Product managers are in a unique position to know the pulse of the company. Product managers work with development, marketing, sales, support, finance, distribution... every department in some form or another. What can product managers tell us about the way the company is working internally? And if product managers are doing their jobs, they'll have data on how the company is perceived in the market. After all, a good product manager is making a dozen calls per quarter to the market.
Product managers' knowledge of the health of the company and products makes them ideal as the president's representative at the product level. That's why I am pleased when I see the product management group reporting directly to the CEO.
Wanna know what's going on? Ask a product manager.
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