Shreyas Doshi+ Your Authors @shreyas early PM & first PM lead @stripe. formerly a PM lead @twitter @google @yahoo. I share offbeat ideas here—useful for some, useless for many, not for everyone ❤️ May. 30, 2020 2 min read + Your Authors

Proof of Worth, a gentle product management rant:

When an early-career PM starts on a team, they might be told that they must build credibility with the builders (eng, design, analytics…)

They must prove their worth.

Fine advice, but it can go wrong long-term.


PMs might be told that the PM title doesn't itself give them the RIGHT to be in the room with the real product builders

"Build cred"

It might not be fun to hear, but it’s a pragmatic perspective & it isn't necessarily wrong.

Now, how can our valiant PM act on this advice?

PMs are told:

“You should fix a bug so engineers begin to respect you”

“You should create wireframes so your designers know you empathize with them”

“You should run SQL queries; bring independent insights”

“You should stay on top of everything; be instantly responsive”

They are being asked to provide “Proof of Worth”.


PM is a weird role.

As Ken Norton famously said about PMs:
“Remember friend, nobody asked you to show up”

So when you do show up, clearly you will be more welcome if you can build instant cred.

So far so fine.

Trouble is, some PMs get forever engaged in Proof of Worth activities

They never learn that the main job is NOT to fill their day with Proof of Worth activities that provide short-term satisfaction & peer approval

The main job is to define products that will be successful.

And while at times these Proof of Worth activities might be helpful in defining or building a successful product, they are usually not the activities that provide the greatest product management leverage to the team, the product, the company.

They also cause stress for PMs.

Show me a mid-career PM who is constantly stressed & overwhelmed with their tasks and I will show you:

a PM who was never taught what the REAL job is

a PM who doesn’t understand task leverage

a PM who is still doing some Proof of Worth tasks for the dopamine rush

As a PM, if your manager or team expects you to regularly do Proof of Worth tasks beyond the junior-most levels of product management, you should treat it as a yellow flag.

And if Proof of Worth tasks are an essential component of your company’s official PM Ladder at or beyond the Group PM level, you should treat it as a red flag.

Edit the PM ladder or exit the company when you can.

A good litmus test of whether you’ve scaled higher degrees of PM proficiency is that you don’t have to do Proof of Worth tasks, even when you join a new team or company.

You’re so good at the core PM job that your team can readily see the singular value you create as a PM.

And when you are at this degree of proficiency, you might still at times choose to do Proof of Worth tasks.

But you'll do them on your own terms.

And you'll do them because you know it’s sometimes the right thing to do for the product & the company.


Additional resources:

A pithy description of the PM role. What is the REAL job?

Task leverage and the LNO Effectiveness Framework

Want to know what highly proficient PMs do?

You can follow @shreyas.


Tip: mention @threader_app on a Twitter thread with the keyword “compile” to get a link to it.

Enjoy Threader? Sign up.

Since you’re here...

... we’re asking visitors like you to make a contribution to support this independent project. In these uncertain times, access to information is vital. Threader gets 1,000,000+ visits a month and our iOS Twitter client was featured as an App of the Day by Apple. Your financial support will help two developers to keep working on this app. Everyone’s contribution, big or small, is so valuable. Support Threader by becoming premium or by donating on PayPal. Thank you.

Follow Threader