Career development can be a huge challenge for product managers. Different organizations tend to define the role in different ways, and no formal definition ever captures the entirety of a product manager’s day-to-day work. For better or worse, product management is a role that is in many ways defined by its ambiguity, which can leave working product managers at a loss for how to define, measure, and develop the skills they need to succeed.
Faced with this reality, product managers often seek to develop the skills utilized by their counterparts in engineering and design. But the skills required to be an engineer or a designer are very different from the skills required to connect and align engineers and designers, as is often one of a product manager’s primary responsibilities. Product management is a unique and challenging role, and it deserves a unique skill model that reflects the connective and facilitative work it requires.
In my book Product Management in Practice, I propose such a skill model, called CORE: Communication, Organization, Research, and Execution. These four words represent the skills that successful product managers across industries and organizations must develop to succeed at their work: communicating to keep stakeholders aligned, organizing their teams for sustained performance, researching user needs and goals, and executing whatever tactical work is needed to get new products out the door.
This new skill model for product managers helps us better navigate our own unique career development paths. A product manager, for example, who is a strong communicator but struggles to understand the needs of their users can work with their counterparts in UX to develop their research skills. A product manager who has no trouble doing the day-to-day work required of them but struggles to create self-sustaining organizational systems for their teams can read up on Agile frameworks and methodologies. The CORE model gives us a way to evaluate our own strengths and opportunities while respecting both the uniqueness and the ambiguity of the PM role.