Product managers are important. They won’t be the first hire in a startup –since the CEO is very product-focused, particularly early on– but at some point in time, CEOs need product managers to help out. When that happens, product managers have to be very careful about not getting squeezed between the CEO and the development team.
Startup CEOs: Don’t hire a product manager to take your instructions and simply transmit them to developers.
Do that yourself if you want to. A product manager needs to have decision-making ability over what happens to the product. If all she is doing is relaying your instructions and taking orders from you, you’re not using her to full capacity. And worse, you’ll end up complicating communication, slowing progress and confusing people. Developers won’t know who they’re taking direction from. They won’t respect your product manager, whom you’ve basically rendered powerless.
When it’s time for you to step away from the day-to-day management and decisions around your product, then step away. Don’t use a product manager as a carrier pigeons, and don’t squeeze them into an impossible, unproductive space between you and the rest of the team.
Image courtesy of D. Bjorn.