The Cranky PM feels positively DIRTY publishing this, but it is very excellently written, quite cranky, and pretty durn funny (O-holes! *snort*).
Here’s a quick memorandum to Cranky Product Manager, Cranky Marketer, Cranky CEO, and all the other members of the Cranky League. You may be shocked to hear that you have my sympathy…Up to a point. As soon as it starts warping the relationship between vendor and analyst, your collective crankiness means exactly Jacques Merde.
You should take a good look at how dysfunctional families behave, since as a group, that’s how many of you operate when dealing with the outside world. In exactly the same fashion as a dysfunctional family, you pretend that you can conceal your problems from outsiders. (You can’t.) If one of these outsiders takes note of these problems, you denounce them loudly and angrily. (It’s not convincing.) And you refuse help from anyone, not because you might need it, but because the shame of admitting to your problems might cause some beloved, confidence-defining portion of your anatomy to shrivel up and fall off. (It won’t.)
Just like any dysfunctional family, your attention is focused inwards. The tiny world inside your four walls, even if it gets abysmally ugly, can dominate your mind in the same way that a moth can’t think of anything but slamming itself over and over against a porch light. In contrast, outsiders—customers, partners, analysts, journalists—are just an annoying distraction. You want to get any odiously necessary contact with outsiders over with as quickly as possible, because you have to get back to winning that incandescent argument with the obnoxious twit who works on the next floor up. And you act surprised when people don’t seem to like you.
If you think the dysfunctional family comparison is unfair, let’s take a look at how neurotic your behavior really is. We’ll use a typical pre-launch analyst briefing as a case study.
- You want to get analysts to praise your upcoming Mega- Über-Super Release Of Ultimate Power And Awesomeness. (Check that box: “Get analyst buy-in.”) However, you wait until the last possible moment to give the briefing, when it’s far too late for analyst feedback to have even the slightest effect on the release. Everyone knows what you really want is validation. When you don’t get it, you act hurt and outraged, like the relatives who ignore you the rest of the calendar year, but there’s hell to pay if you forget to send them a Christmas card.
- You try to convince the analysts, during the briefing, by talking them to death. Surely, if you keep piling up the words, the collective weight of them will crush any objections. Forget having a conversation, or questions, or even a bathroom break. And why stop talking long enough to show the product, when you can continue describing it in terms of abstract boxes, circles, trapezoids, and arrows in a PowerPoint slide? Or 187 PowerPoint slides?
- Rather than providing direct access to reference customers, you tell us that you have a case study. Or, to paraphrase, you know a guy in your company who knows a guy in another company who told the first guy that the new product looked pretty good. This standard of evidence works pretty well for the enthusiasts of the weird and unexplained phenomena like Bigfoot and UFO sightings. The problem with the skeptics? They just don’t want to believe.
As obnoxious as this behavior can be, you still haven’t completely destroyed our sympathy. We know how much effort goes into an analyst presentation—all the hand-wringing behind the scenes, especially with the CEO, CMO, CTO, and all the other executive-level O-holes involved.
Unfortunately, despite all your pains, the result is a lot like the hideous plaid sweater you got from your well-intentioned but fashion-challenged aunt for your birthday: It’s not the gift you wanted. Hell, it’s not even what you explicitly asked to get.
I’m sure that, if the briefing doesn’t turn out the way you hoped, verbal fisticuffs ensue. However, these arguments among the Cranky Department Heads don’t usually make the next briefing any better. Dysfunctional families argue a lot, but the arguments are never about the real problem. If you can exhaust yourself yelling at Bob because he left the toilet seat up, or laying out your careful argument proving that Mary doesn’t give you the respect you deserve, or reminding Frank that you warned him a thousand times over that the god damn puppy he wanted was going to ruin the furniture, you don’t have the time or energy left over to discuss anything substantive.
So, if the Cranky Engineer didn’t get all the requirements info he wanted, or the Cranky Marketer feels unappreciated for all the great leads she generated, Boo Fricking Hoo. Welcome to life in the vale of tears, where you might get the chance to fix some of these problems, but others will stubbornly resist all your world-class wailing and gnashing of teeth. No one expects you, or your company, to be problem-free. We do mind, however, if you use your problems as an excuse to treat the rest of us shabbily.