No Excuses Product Management (Part 2)- Stop Whining About Training

In this post, The Cranky Product Manager continues her vendetta against all those sniveling product managers who trot out pathetic excuses for NOT DOING THEIR FREAKIN’ JOBS.

This is Part 2 of here NO EXCUSES PRODUCT MANAGEMENT series.  Enjoy Part 1 here.  There will be at least parts 3 and 4 (and who knows, maybe there will be more).

LAME-ASS PRODUCT MANAGEMENT EXCUSE #2: "I never received training on how to do that."

Ah, young product manager, do you think you are in Sales or Customer Support or something? Training? For Product Managers? Surely, you must be drunk. Part of your job is to CREATE and GIVE training to everyone else at the company, and yet you somehow have the temerity to expect to get some for yourself?

OK, seriously. The Cranky Product Manager sympathizes, but just a little.  After all, she never had an ounce of employer-sponsored PM training bestowed upon her until, well, never. (On second thought, the Cranky Product Manager has absolutely no sympathy for you at all.)

Your passive "sit-back-and-train-me" attitude, especially when used as a responsibility dodge, makes the Cranky Product Manager want to slap you fire you.  WTF?!? You’re a product manager for Dog’s sake!  Your CORE INSTINCT is supposed to be identifying what’s needed and where the gaps are, and then figuring out a way — if necessary, a CREATIVE way — to eliminate the gaps.

So if your PM skills are lacking, then figure out WHAT training you need and WHY (see Note 1). Then make the business case to your boss – just as you would for building a new product or a new feature!

And if your boss says "no budget", well, show some initiative and EDUCATE YOURSELF. Go to Product Camps. Read blogs and articles. Ask questions of people and LinkedIn. Watch online webinars or some of the free online courses. Join a local product management association that hosts monthly speakers. Read some books. NO EXCUSES! All this stuff is FREE or a complete bargain.

(Yes, the Cranky Product Manager realizes that she should not be yelling at you, an Esteemed Member of the Crankerati.  The fact that you are even reading this post means that you probably read other more educational PM blogs and have taken charge of your own professional development.  Please forgive the Cranky PM for lashing out.)

To wrap up, let’s address a potential hole in the Cranky Product Manager’s logic that you may have spotted: namely, her argument that if you lack Product Management skills, well you should use your Product Management skills to get some training or  train yourself.  Seems a bit circular, but only if you believe that determination, taking initiative, and resourcefulness are "skills" that can be taught in a training class. Au contraire, the Cranky Product Manager believes these are personality traits that can’t be taught to a fully formed adult without psychotherapy or a religious experience.

Now, repeat after me:  NO EXCUSES!

NOTE 1:  If you don’t know where to get training, check the comments on this post.  The Cranky Product Manager expects that many of the product management training vendors will post something.  

But vendors, listen up!  Don’t abuse the Cranky Product Manager’s comment section, or she’ll delete your ass.  

First, your training company may post exactly ONE "pitch" comment, with exactly ONE link.  

Second, if the comments section (or the Cranky PM’s email/Twitter accounts) turns into a bad-mouthing or whining fest, akin to the local junior high school scene, the Cranky Product Manager will shut the whole thing down. Promise.


Also in No Excuses Product Management

  1. No Excuses Product Management (Part 1)
  2. No Excuses Product Management (Part 2)- Stop Whining About Training

43 comments

  1. theprodmgr

    I whole heartedly agree. While I was fortunate that my former employer sent me to learn at the feet of the master (a Steve Johnson facilitated Pragmatic Marketing course) when I transferred into Product Management, I have found that I have learned a lot in the last 8 years just by reading and following.

  2. lmckeogh

    10 years ago I asked for a more formal definition of my responsibilities as a junior PM from an esteemed senior PM. He pulled out some two paragraph article from a newspaper and said this is the best he had been able to find. (or something along those lines) I lost respect for him, consequently have forgotten his lame response and set out to find my own answer.

    I am still on that path. I have found a lot of interesting and useful material along the way but I don’t think I will ever stop learning. Training credentials show what I did for a couple days. Real training comes from doing the job.

  3. David Locke

    If you expect to be trained, you must not work at a startup. A startup can’t afford to train anyone. They should have hired someone that could build the department, regardless of the job they are hired into. That pretty much means that if you ask for training, you are really telling me, I shouldn’t have hired you. And, face it, I didn’t restrict my search to someone with this or that certification. I hired you, because I thought you could do the job. Oh, well.

    You know how to read. You have plenty of time on airplanes, in airports, and in hotels to train yourself.

    If I get you trained and certified, you’ll use that on your resume to get another job elsewhere. So you don’t like it here. That I can deal with in a cost effective manner.

    This is a startup. If you work for a Fortune 500 company, you don’t have to be the most capital efficient organization on the planet, so I’m sure they will get you trained. After that, don’t ask me to hire you, because you are used to gravy and fat processes that don’t belong in a startup. More than likely, that Fortune 500 company is looking for an MBA and prior experience, someone who already has the job title of product manager, brand manager, or whatever.

    Get over it. I don’t expect you to be trained.

      • Ran Shenhar

        Just to make sure – I don’t disagree that one needs to be active and that self guidance is critical, I’m just saying that “no training” as a philosophy is, well, not a great one.

      • The Cranky Product Manager

        Hey, don’t get the Cranky Product Manager wrong, she’s BIG into education and training – she self-funded her own MBA degree after all. She just it as an excuse from a product manager, because being scrappy and resourceful is part of the job definition.

        Anyway, she really liked that article – thanks for sharing the link. It is definitely good food for thought – especially for new Directors and VPs of Product Management.

  4. teaneedz

    Well said Peter Locke. The Cranky PM is a great place for potential and seasoned PM’s. Wisdom from the trenches is a good thing when one appreciates the experience behind it and is willing to still learn a thing or two. Whatever certificate sits on a wall or number of years one has under their belt/skirt, this is a great place to come and learn from the seasoned pros. Glad I stumbled onto this blog.

  5. TondinBanks

    I have to back what theprodmgr said; any PM Padawan needs to beg, borrow, or steal to attend Pragmatic’s seminar. Go to all 3 days so you can learn about requirements. I don’t know that I would call this training so much as a foundation to build your own learning on. As with any topic that’s on the Internet, there’s good information and then there’s crap. This seminar will allow you to tell the difference so you don’t waste your time on crap.

    Find people you can trust that can help you think through things. Everybody needs a mentor, even people that have been in the industry for years. (Follow any of these individuals on Twitter long enough and you’ll see somebody mentioning how they had a great conversation with somebody else about product management.) This is not a solitary occupation; nothing worth having was ever conceived in a bubble.

    And for God-sakes, start a freakin’ blog. I struggled with that thought for a long time. What I’ve realized is 2 things 1) its helped me find people I can trust outside of my company to help me with issues in my company and 2) its a great way to think through things.

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  8. Per Haglund

    Been to a few training courses, including pragmatic. Best value for money for me was actually a project management course: “Persuading as a project manager”. Nothing about frameworks, processes etc – just all about communication in different circumstances: individual talks, argumentation, meeting management, presentation technique, negotiation skills. Transversal management is a very large part of the job and I use the communication and leadership skills I learned on a daily basis – would have taken a long time to build them up on my own.

  9. April

    I did the Pragmatic Marketing training a million years ago. Craig Stull himself did the class and it was really eye-opening for me. Up until then, non of my marketing education related to technology at all (or even B2B for that matter – it was all CPG back in those days).
    I have to admit, I’ve never heard any PM’s complaining about lack of training but that’s probably because I’m dealing mainly with startups that are too busy and broke to think about it. In fact, it’s usually a struggle to convince people that there’s is value in having someone out of the office for a few days of training, rather than the other way around…
    April

    • The Cranky Product Manager

      You’re fortunate to have not encountered young-un PMs whining about lack of training. She’s heard this one:

      1. In really big companies where people spend more time taking personality tests and doing team building exercises than doing actual work.

      2. From people who come to High Tech product management from the CPG industry (they probably couldn’t hack it as brand managers in CPG, but retained the CPG “ivory tower” attitude).

      3. In situations where product management had become a dumping ground for the lackluster misfits who didn’t work out in other areas of the company but who apparently have naked pictures of the CEO.

      • Geoffrey Anderson

        Wow, a great post by April, and a great response by the Cranky PM, how can I add to that?

        Like the CPM says, many people outside of the tech world may be great product managers in the CPG world, but really can’t hack it in the echelons (trenches? Cesspools?) of tech product management.

        I had some hokey training wayyyy back (about 15 years ago, sponsored by SEMI, the semiconductor equipment industry group), but most of my learning has come through trial and error, reading (a LOT), searching the interwebs (dating myself here too) when Google came into being (my first two jobs didn’t even have email).

        Also, like the CPM says, I have had some really poor candidates thrust on me (this engineer just got his mail order MBA and now wants to be a product manager), or people who were decent applications engineers tossed into the breach.

        I really dig the no excuses thread though. Product managers just git it done ™. It is in our DNA.

  10. Chris Boothe

    Completely Agree! If you need training in any profession you need to sign up for yourself. You cannot always expect employers to be as forward thinking with training initiatives.

    Agile product management training is a must in today’s environment too.

  11. Jim Holland

    With the plethora of social networking solutions where Product Management and Product Marketing congregates, the “No Execuses” tag has to be applied. Let’s face it, ten years ago, there were a handful of training firms, websites and content available for the profession.

    Currently, there are over 100 blogs (all authored by product management), numerous discussion groups and a healthy following via Twitter and LinkedIn. In the past eighteen months, the Product Management Community has grown and has a clear voice with thousands of participants worldwide sharing best practices, experiences, war stories and providing therapy to each other. The proliferation of product camps now makes it easier to share face-to-face and we’re all willing to volunteer in associations to better the discipline of product management.

    I’ll leave you to decide..and say their are NO excuses for Product Management.

  12. Ilya

    Cranky, I’ve always found “teach me or I can’t do my job” argument incredible irksome. Alright, who am I kidding, it just pisses me off. Especially when the training is for obvious stuff, and there are plenty of resources on the internet just waiting to be used. I’ve heard people requesting training for Skype. I kid you not. Skype!

    In my experience “train me” retort is the disease of large companies where responsibility to get stuff done is spread over the great many people doing the job and there is a least some luxury of obscurity for each employee. At a start up “train me” would (or should) just get you fired on the spot.

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  15. Don MacLennan

    Hi,

    Great post and replies. Two comments:

    1. “Big companies provide lots of training” is a myth. I’ve done pre-revenue companies, pre-IPO, post-IPO, worked at SAP, worked at EMC, worked daily with Cisco as a partner, etc. etc. Nobody big or small gives PM training. Training on other horizontal skills, maybe.

    2. “No excuses” needs to be put in further context. It doesn’t mean “I’m going to do everything everyone expects of me”.

    I am rebuilding a PM org right now. What’s working for me might be applicable elsewhere? Step one: define roles & responsibilities using a credible framework like Pragmatic Marketing. Get every peer function and CEO to sign off on which bits PM does and doesn’t do. BTW: you’re going to shine a light on product marketing too. Step two: define the key competencies that need to exist in order to support the roles & responsibilities everybody agreed on. Get everyone to agree, again. (If you’re a team of one or two, negotiate some items out. Nobody can be competent at the whole framework). Step three: self-assessment. Get clear on what you and rest of team are truly capable of. Including what can be learned versus what’s innate. Use whatever tools you can find (Myers-Briggs, interviews, brain scans, whatever it takes). Step four: Show the gap analysis between roles, competencies and what you’re currently able to do by capacity AND competency. Negotiate one of two outcomes: hire to fill the gaps (using a 6-18 month plan), or narrow the focus of the team to make sure you succeed at something.

    PM is a massively wide discipline. Yes, you can train your way to more breadth and depth. Yes, there are no excuses. But negotiate for success.

    I know, you’re saying “But we aren’t in re-building mode. This doesn’t apply to me.” It’s never to late to set expectations and ask for what’s needed to succeed. No excuses?

  16. MiserablePM

    yeah but what happens when your company lacks tructure or any process. Not talking about start ups, just people who believe in velocity without seatbelts, QA, marketing people, project management or lead developers.

  17. ColdGold

    Loved this post (both part 1 & 2). Couldn’t agree more with the Cranky PM. Love your ‘style’ of writing:)