On Perfection

They whisper in hushed tones in the grungy back alleys of software product management. They spread tales about the mythical beast – the quantifiably perfect product manager. The one who’s got all the pieces lined up well before the game starts, the smooth talker with the slick slide decks, the sharpshooter hitting the KPIs, the OKRs, crushing numbers like an accountant on steroids. They say it’s all about nailing the routine, executing the process with surgical precision.

And let me tell you something, that’s a load of bunk.

Sure, perfection’s a nice hat to hang on the rack, but it ain’t gonna pay the bills. In this unpredictable, churning sea of product management, it ain’t perfection that keeps you afloat. It’s flexibility.

Across the business battlefield, products lie in ruin, casualties of managers who clung to their precious rulebooks like a life raft. Too often, perfection’s just a fancy word for rigid, brittle, and too damn late.

Now picture this – you’re in a dimly lit joint, watching an improv comedy act at the Upright Citizens Brigade. Those jokers on stage don’t know what twist the tale’s gonna take next, yet they roll with the punches, think on their feet, spin the yarn, and keep the crowd in stitches. They’re flexible, quick-witted, brimming with creative juice.

Put one of these improv artists up against a stiff-necked College Bowl champ for a spot on my product team? I’ll pick the joker every damn time. Let me lay out why.

In this software racket, especially where consumers come into play, the lay of the land changes faster than a New York minute. New fads crop up, tech morphs, market demand sways like a drunk on a Saturday night, competitors come up with new tricks, and business bigwigs change their tune like they’re shuffling a Spotify playlist. In a world that fickle, you need someone who can dance the cha-cha with chaos.

And it ain’t just about being quick on the draw. Your team’s counting on your improv chops too. A product manager’s gotta juggle a circus of different folks – developers, execs, sales, service, analysts, prospects, and customers. Each one’s singing their own tune, with their own rhythm, and you gotta keep them all in harmony.

Sales wants you to reassure some jittery prospect, service needs you to defuse a ticking time bomb, marketing’s begging you to charm the pants off the analysts. And the top brass? Their whims shift faster than shadows on a cloudy day. You gotta be quick, creative, weave your product’s story through the twists and turns like a maestro conducting a symphony.

This ain’t no waltz, it’s a high-speed tango. Like a hotshot contestant on So You Think You Can Dance, you gotta know all the steps, glide through the beats, adjust on the fly. If you’re the sort who used to pull off last-minute miracles in school, you might have just what it takes for this gig. This job’s for the ones who can think fast, switch gears without grinding, keep their cool under pressure, and still deliver the goods.

When the storm hits and the pressure mounts, that’s when you know who you are. It’s like that moment when you’ve been tailing a mark through the murky backstreets all night and suddenly you’re caught in a blind alley, back against the wall. It ain’t your fault, but now you’re the one in the hotseat. What’s the play, chief?

You see, product management ain’t for the faint-hearted. It’s a high-stakes poker game, and you’re playing with a deck that’s always changing. You can’t plan for every hand, every surprise twist, every snake hiding in the grass. The estimate’s off, there’s a requirement missing, the code’s full of more bugs than a flophouse mattress, you have to roll back on launch day. The CEO’s breathing down your neck, the Sales rep’s banging on your door, the customer’s shouting in your ear. And in this racket, you don’t get to say, “It ain’t my fault.” You’ve got to stand up, look them straight in the eye, and hold your ground.

Think you can play this game without getting your hands dirty? Think again, pal. In this world of shifting realities, when the heat’s on, you’ll find out if you’re a stand-up guy or just another schmuck. Will you throw someone under the bus or take one for the team? Will you feed them a line, or tell them the straight truth?

But if sudden curveballs make you sweat, if you freeze up when the reality show drops a mid-episode bombshell, then maybe this dance ain’t for you.

But let’s get one thing straight. Being quick on your feet and adaptable ain’t enough. To truly knock it outta the park, you gotta pair flexibility with a dash of creative spark, a thirst for discovery, a sense of wonder, an obsession with useful software, and an eye for good design. Throw in some smooth people skills and you’ll be running circles around the competition.

So here’s the skinny – forget chasing the perfect mirage. It’s not the brainiest or the brawniest that make it in this world, it’s the ones who can roll with the punches and still come out swinging. So warm up those improv muscles, learn to embrace the dance, and get ready to convince that prospect your product’s gonna have them rolling in dough while kicking their feet up.