PM is the pacer

Photo by Bruce Mars

Being a Product Manager is like being in a partner workout.

Partner workouts are great exercise because they help you keep accountable. You burn fat and build muscle while having fun with a friend. The same workout can turn disastrous if the strength levels of the partners don’t match. So much so, one can end up not sore rather injured. We call the stronger partner, the pacer.

A Product Manager partners with individuals across teams. I propose they consider each of these relationships as a singular partner workout. Each of these workouts lasts for the duration of a concrete deliverable.

A vision, a roadmap or a product specification are all concrete deliverables of a PM. The single tool needed to produce this –beyond the qual/quant insights – is ability to write in a human language.

Generally, a PM doesn’t have to wrangle data, juggle code or slice and dice layers of an SVG. Their product is lower lift , be it one of high leverage and impact.

In a partner workout the Product Manager is the stronger partner, the pacer

As the pacer, the PM has to ensure that they are not burning their partner out. This is not about cadence but also about good form.

Cadence here might be how fast you complete a cycle of work ie period of stress. Sustained periods of high stress without recovery lead to injury and burnout. Long periods of lull lead to disengaged partners – waiting for you to complete your round.

Form consists of how you interact with them, share information and disambiguate. The better the form, the healthier the interactions and in turn relationship.

If we zoom out from this single workout, we will notice that the Product Manager is part of several workouts. They are working with more than one partner at the same time. And they are the pacer in all. This means they not only need to be weary of each partner’s burn but also their own across all workouts.

I hope this framing helps PMs, better manage energies of partners and themselves.