Sam’s Club Product Lead on Product Meets Culture (Part 2)

Know Your Role 

The longer an organization’s been around the more complex it’s going to get. That’s just the way it is. Therefore, it can be really counterproductive to jump right into the job and assume that everyone knows what you do. Before PMs jump into doing product, they need to understand how the organization works in order to build value. In addition, they need to know how the organization thinks and what its goals are. 

It starts with understanding what your counterparts expect from you. Initially, you’re going to face some common product management tropes. They often fall into these three categories: 

  1. Business Analyst- Business teams want you to gather business requirements.
  2. Project Manager- Operations wants you to get the predefined solution done on time.
  3. Program Manager- Engineers want you to be the bridge between them and everyone else.

Here’s the thing to know about this. These tropes are not good or bad. Nor are they representative of an organization’s understanding of product mindset or of product management. They are a reflection of the fact that people can only operate from a frame of reference that they understand. In each of those functions, there are actually jobs within there. 

Learn How to Navigate in Order to Add Value

The way each team expresses what they think product management does is actually reflective of how they define success. Now, this is really valuable for a PM trying to navigate a large organization. This observation is based on Conway’s Law or the marrying hypothesis. So understanding how an organization is formed and how to navigate through it will help you to find places to add value.

 Adding value can be as simple as establishing relationships and building trust. However, there is something product managers should be aware of. Product managers can’t be everything for everyone because it’s impossible. So, you have to offer some value for everyone, but not be everything for everyone.

In complex businesses, you have to find value for everyone. In the same vein, you also have to carve out space for product management. Do not be afraid to make it clear to the organization that your goals are slightly different from their goals. However, please do remember that the goals are not mutually exclusive. Here is how you can add value at your organization:

  • Recognize and commit to solving the needs of many constituents.
  • Articulate product vision and goals.
  • Establish product principles by building a robust and resilient enterprise ecosystem that enables speed and scale while putting users first.

Click here for Part 1

Click here for Part 3

About the speaker
Sharon Su Plasser Walmart eCommerce, Director of Product Management, Reverse Logistics and Backroom Operations, Sam's Club Member

Sharon Su Plasser is a Director of Product at Sam’s Club (part of Walmart E-Commerce) - leading the product team focused on retail operations and reverse logistics. Prior to joining Sam’s Club, she led product management and business operations teams at Yahoo. In addition, Sharon has also held leadership positions at Goldman Sachs and Meebo. Sharon holds a degree from Skidmore College and currently lives in San Francisco

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Sharon Plasser shares her experience in transitioning the business out of a legacy system and the consequences that result from doing so.

Sam’s Club Product Lead on Product Meets Culture

Sams Club Product Lead, Sharon Plasser, shares key principles for product managers for navigating complexities in established organizations.

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