Career and Money Advice At The Intersection Of Business And Technology

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Deal with "internalized conflict"

November 14th, 2008 · No Comments

As a product manager, I often find myself internalizing conflict: sales team wants development team to build a new feature or customize an existing feature so that they can close a deal. Engineering team has its own schedule and resource constraints. They don’t like to be distracted by the one-off request. Plus, sales tend to be deal driven, and sometime they "cry wolf".

I think the tension between sales and engineering are nature and healthy — they have different goals, incentives, and perspectives. But, it’s the product manager’s job to balance the immediate sales needs and product roadmap, balance short-term quick-and-dirty product enhancements and long-term project, balance flexibility and discipline.

As a result, sometime there is a "war" going on in my mind: I know what sales team wants and I want to help. After all, if we can not bring in enough dollars in the end of the day, we don’t have a viable business. On the other hand, I work closely with development team, and I know how constrained their resource is. Plus, I’ve been working diligently to implement a disciplined process to review and prioritize feature requests, and make sure engineering team is not randomized and distracted.

I’m going back and forth in my mind — what should I do? This is hard for me because I cannot just take a position like sales or engineering does — I have a broader perspective and understand both sides. That makes my job a lot harder! 🙂

I have used several different mental models to resolve the internalized conflict:

  • "Let them battle it out" — the pure facilitator model
  • "Quantify as much as we can, and let the number speak for itself" — the analytic mode
  • "Presenting the facts, and product board makes the decision" — the decision deferral model

Have you find yourself in situation like this? What’s your strategy and best practices?

Tags: Career Fast Track · Get Project Done · Product Management

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