A few weeks ago, we published The Full Stack Product Manager, which argues that product managers should have skills in five different domains, from technology to sales, business to design. The next day, we published another piece, this one arguing that a good PM is “T-Shaped,” she has one area of expertise in addition to a general understanding of other areas. And indeed, the question of what makes a great PM will continue to get those in the field writing, arguing, and pontificating.
That’s why, in this week’s poll, we asked: which makes a more effective PM: the niche specialist or the one who wears every hat? Response to the poll showed an overwhelming majority of 86% voting for the generalist. But the debaters, with their privilege of a nuanced answer, have both weighed in with a milder “it depends.”
Depends on maturity
It depends on the product, go-to-market motion, and maturity of the product and company. Early stage product teams will want more generalists that can jump in and chase problems and solve them. Later stage product teams will want more specialists as the product portfolio gets more diverse and mature requiring specialization. This also varies between B2B/B2C/B2B2C product teams as the mix may be weighted more to generalists or specialists, also changing over time.
Director of Product Management, Okta
Depends on team size
Typically, I find that startups need PMs that wear multiple hats. When you get to ~5 PMs you can start hiring specialists. On a team at scale, you typically have a mix of both, and the challenge becomes getting the right people into the right roles.
VP Product Strategy, Zendesk