Skills needed to go from product owner to product manager?

I come from a small organization where I wore all hats and worked from customer service to a PM. I tend to get stuck in a features and execution mentality. In the hierarchy of mission > vision > strategy > roadmap > execution/sprints, we only operated in the roadmap > execution/sprints spectrum.

The CEO’s plan had always been to iterate our way to success, which was fun, but chaotic and disorganized. I took control of that last year before I left, but I still find myself planning in those ways.

When I’m interviewing for positions, the most common response is that they selected a candidate with “more strategic experience”. It makes sense, because when they ask about what I love about PM, I gush about giving users new features, execution (specs, PO, deliverables), and speeding up the time-to-market pipeline.

What are some tips and resources to orient my thinking? I’m currently going through past projects and noting where this kind of thinking/planning would have made a big difference.


CEOs and execs from other areas will only rely (and trust product) when the communication of deliverables becomes reliable and predictable. For that execution, features, and roadmap is the thing. Love it or hate it, you need to deeply respect it.

So, should you gravitate outside of strategy? No. But here enters your reach and influence on making a change.

You need to understand where you can fit the strategy bits into what you do on a daily.

If you have influence, you can change how the company organizes strategy to be more product centric: focus on building an over-arching narrative for the company (vision), focus on identifying top company problems (goals), go for OKRs (great to tie down strategy to execution). But never forget in the end you’ll need your initiatives and roadmaps, and progress reports, and sprint communications.

If you have little influence, nudge your boss into influencing more but… focus more on what you can control, your time (think in horizons short, mid, and long time) and connect the dots between biz and tech for your teams. If you hear something in a townhall or know an exec or ceo values something be an ambassador for that.

On practical terms: Show you can have a playbook that merges everything together. Strategy and execution. In terms of reads good strategy/bad strategy and measure what matters def helped me.


Ahhhh, love the way you’ve worded this. Some of the product managers I work with in a newer role debate me on focusing so hard on delivery but our CEO has been clear to me she hasn’t seen consistent delivery long enough to trust our team left to our own roadmaps and decisions. They have features/tests that fail when left on their own as well, so it’s a real challenge to pull back. I’ve created a new mantra with my team to “humbly deliver while continuing to build trust and become strategic partners” and it’s getting traction. Anyways, loved your reply. Any more advice or deep-dive would be appreciated!

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I appreciate your input here, especially from your experience point. If you don’t mind, I’d like to just type out some thoughts as I have been diving deep into the thought leadership of it.

I’ve just recently introduced the idea of worrying about the roadmap a bit less since we try to project out 6 months, which takes multiple people a ton of hours to come up with and present, and then it never happens anyways due to new clients coming in, headcount changes, etc.

I realize that the idea of not using any roadmap is still viewed as very extreme and have been trying to get us to explain the problems being solved by what we are currently working on, and then listing the next problems we will consider going after instead of features.

(This next paragraph is a bit black/white, just interested in hearing your thoughts).

Do you think that executives needing a feature roadmap is a sign of bad business if a company is some kind of fast-moving service? It just seems like every day a company should ask “are we working on the priority problems? And do we have an idea of what problems we might tackle next?” instead of “what will we build in the next 6 months - 1 year, and let us not change that” since roadmaps seem pointless to me if they are going to change anyway.

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Here goes my 2 cents again. :slight_smile:

A roadmap provides direction. Any business needs direction. Even if it is always changing.

The pm should always come with a roadmap of intentions/priorities/main problems.

Why? Predictability. We all have customers, and customers cannot buy into “we are so good at deciding what’s more important next that you can just trust us and see the results”.

I do understand your point that roadmaps can be meaningless, but they ease alignment, communication, and idea selling. So for me, personally, we should strive to have them as they play in the PM’s best interests more than against it.

What you should never do is do a roadmap just for the sake of delivering material for an exec to stop complaining.

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Thank you for the response! I really appreciate the advice and I believe it will help me as I continue to learn.

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