Debate

Visionary or Task-Oriented: which makes the better product manager?

This week’s question seemed to elicit unusually strong opinions from our debaters. In our poll, an overwhelming majority of you think that it’s more important for product managers to be visionary than it is for them to be task-oriented. However, the reality out there does not seem to match our lofty notions about product management.

In The State of Product Leadership, a recently published comprehensive survey of more than 300 product leaders, the majority of product managers reported that the “see themselves as more tactical than visionary and more driven by competitors than customers.” This should be an alarming stat, especially considering that many of us feel that being a task-oriented PM is simply not enough.

How do you think about this debate? Let us know in the comment section below.

Task-Oriented

It's really hard one to generalize but if I had to vote I'd say task-oriented, especially for young companies that need to get shit done. Many companies don't lack ideas or vision, they tend to lack the discipline PMs bring: being ruthless with prioritization, focused on delivery and holding engineering and other teams accountable. But if it's a larger, more mature company stuck in sustaining innovation and seeking out new markets and new products with products, I'd opt for visionaries.

Sam Boonin
VP Product Strategy, Zendesk
Visionary

Being a visionary is about building the right strategic features, whereas being task-oriented corresponds to being able to execute on building features. Obviously, both are important, and great PMs must do both, but being a visionary is far more critical. Many people are involved in the execution of a feature, including tech leads, design leads, and engineers. The PM needs to help drive that process, but there are a lot of other stakeholders. In contrast, on the strategic vision side, the PM is the primary stakeholder whose unique position between company leadership, customers, sales, and engineering provides an unmatched perspective. Also, practically speaking, it's quite possible that the truly visionary and differentiating features, even if poorly executed, will prove valuable. Building the wrong features, even if perfectly executed, is never good.

Justin DeBrabant
Head of Product, ActionIQ
User Comments