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The Product Management Restaurant

product management restaurant

If you’re a Product Manager, then a lot of this will make sense to you but eventually, you’re going to be asked the question “What does a product manager do?” Now to a fellow person in the tech field, you have a fair number of ways you could explain this in just a few words due to common language. However, to someone in a totally different field, you may as well be speaking in Latin and Chinese combined, it’s just not going to resonate.

I tend to answer this in a very simple yet relatable way and that’s by comparing it to a restaurant. Let’s imagine a restaurant that you work at and let’s look at the setup of your team.You must have the whole team working in sync and with a common goal.  In your typical eatery, you have a number of roles who have ownership of certain areas. Let’s look at them:

Customer: The one who wants something but with good quality, a fair price, and if serviced correctly, will return for more business.

Server: Finds out what the customers want, asks for specifications, variations, and in the end, delivers the order and checks on quality.
Front End Manager: Makes sure all the resources in the front of the restaurant are able to handle customers, responsible for front end operations.

Expediter: Queues the orders up, directs who gets what first based on priority, responsible for quality check and hand off to delivery.

Chef / Sous Chef: Take the prioritized orders and then does the work to create the product based on the server’s specifications.

General Manager: Responsible for overseeing the end to end, making decisions on the items on the menu, as well as the types of variations of ingredients (white bread, wheat bread, brioche bun, etc)

Now let’s compare and map this out to your typical Agile Product team.

Customer: Yes, in software we have customers too. These can be internal or external but the desire is the same “Want XYZ at a fair price and good quality/speed”.

Server: This could be your analyst, product, or program manager. As many companies have different roles and setups, the goal is the same, find out what the customer whats, what’s most important to them, and getting it back once done.

Chef / Sous Chef: Your software development team. This is an excellent correlation here, they make your (meal/tool/app) and use the customers’ desires to deliver what they want in a quick turnaround but with quality.

Expediter & General Manager: Here we have the heart of product management and essentially this is where product management plugs into the process. We follow a very similar cadence where we have to work with many different customers and colleagues but at the end of the day, we are responsible for setting the cadence, delivery, and priority of all the orders coming in. If a customer leaves unhappy, it reflects on the product manager but same time if a customer is delighted and becomes a loyal supporter, the product manager gets to enjoy the success of the delivery and of the hard work of the team as well.

As a Product Manager, you are expected to wear many different hats, sometimes multiple hats at the same time. That can be difficult because we only have one head but yet we look at the challenge and find the angles to help us solve our problems.

Product Management is a journey in learning that never ends. There are many different roads to get us where we want to be but we choose the path that fits best with our individual talents and strengths. I look forward to writing more on this subject and hope you enjoyed your time here.


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