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Why it’s good to be paranoid if you are a product management executive

November 24, 2009 Leave a comment

One of my all-time favorite books is “Only the Paranoid Survive” by Andy Grove, former chairman and CEO of Intel Corporation.

In early 1980’s, Intel’s business was driven by DRAM chips.   Andy Grove saw the potential in microprocessors and the rest is history, including a complete transformation of Intel’s business model and product strategy.

It’s good to be paranoid if you are a product management executive and have early visibility to indicators that may compel the company to change its product strategy.

At the same time, it’s also good to ask a very basic question before the company is facing a competitive threat.   What kind of change is the company capable of?  Complete transformation – if needed – or incremental change that may not be good enough to face a competitive threat?

Even an incremental change in a product strategy will require re-alignment of product marketing, sales, engineering, and professional services organizational resources.  There will be many late nights chaired by the CFO reviewing and comparing different revenue forecasts and P&L scenarios.

Significant product strategy change will challenge every thread in the organization, from executives to every employee  – regardless of their role or experience.

The inconvenient truth:  very few companies are capable of significant product strategy change unless there is a conscious and deliberate effort to build a culture that can be capable of great leaps … well in advance.

Go beyond the basics of normal paranoia when leading a product management organization in a software company.  Be paranoid about the ability to change and respond first.   There are plenty of product strategy presentations collecting dust as an outcome of being unable to execute.

Categories: Product Management