Product Managers, when you and your counterparts in engineering pull on the oars and row in the same direction, you’re on course to build the right product and build it right. Your relationship with engineering can form the perfect marriage between “What must be done” and “How to do it.”

But just like in any marriage, there are little things that you each do that can really get under the other’s skin.  For example, check out these five product manager behaviors that drive engineers crazy.

1. Design Instead of Specify

As a product manager, your job is to specify what the product must do, not how it should do it. For example:

  • Specify what must be moved; don’t specify the robot.
  • Specify the vacuum performance; don’t specify the pump.
  • Specify what must be sensed; don’t specify the sensor.

If you are requiring specific gizmos, instead of the things the re designing, not specifying.

2. Deny Access to Customers

Not only does this drive engineers crazy, it’s a major mistake. Get your engineers in front of customers. They’ll develop a first-hand appreciation for the problems that your customer is trying solve. You’ll get two big benefits from this.

First, engineering will have a better sense of where you are coming from when you define requirements for a product. That means better buy-in and faster consensus on product plans.  Second, this direct interaction can lead to the inspiration that produces the killer product.

3. Toss Product Requirements Over-the-Wall

Don’t keep your engineering partner in the dark while you develop market requirements. Involving your engineers will give you better insight into the options available, their relative costs and the required time to bring them to market. Otherwise, be prepared to reconcile huge gaps between what you feel must be done and what engineering says can be done.

This is not does not mean that that your Market Requirements Document (MRD) should be reduced to reflect what at first blush appears to be engineering’s capability limit. Absolutely not.  Market requirements still need to be specified such that they describe a product that will meet your business objectives in the context of what the market requires and the competition is capable of doing.

However, engaging your engineering partner at the definition stage will lead to a shorter requirements verses plan reconciliation and better solutions.

4. Insist on the Ultimate Product

Want to make your engineering partner’s head explode? Try this. Take your competition’s data sheet; dial each specification up by twenty-five per cent; and turn it in as your market requirements. Ka-Boom!

Capital equipment design requires many trade-off decisions to arrive at the best possible solution.  Insisting on the ultimate product, for which no trade-offs can be made, is the same as specifying the impossible product.

Instead identify those critical few specifications that really drive purchase decisions in your target market. Drive these to exceed your competition’s capability. Set all others to be just good enough.

5. Disappear After the MRD

Development for your new product is going to take several detours from the original plan as it navigates from project kick-off to market introduction. Trade-off decisions on performance, cost, and schedule will be a daily occurrence. You must stay engaged.

The development team needs your on-going guidance to make sure that trade-off decisions still result in a product that satisfies the original business case. If you step away after the MRD is complete, you’re setting yourself up for a failed product and a pile of frustrated engineers.