Product management · Leadership

How to transition product management to a PM but still stay involved?

Natalie Balt Cofounder/CTO at CrewUp

February 10th, 2016

Brining on our first PM and want them to feel empowered but that said product is still most important to me as a founder and I want to stay involved. Advice or thoughts on how to do both?

Sam McAfee Building better technology leaders and teams

February 10th, 2016

A good PM is going to make your life so much easier. I know you must realize that, since you are hiring one, but it's easy to squander by micromanaging them until they get fed up.

My advice would be to stay at the vision and strategy level and let them handle the how aspect of the product. A good PM will want to know who the customer is, and what problem the product is supposed to solve. How the product works technically is probably you, but the UX of acquisition and onboarding and retention, that's all them.

From a staff perspective, you should set clear manageable goals together, and have regular checks to review how it's going.

But if you have to approve every little thing, both you and s/he are going to have friction. Be prepared to delegate and let go.

Myrna King "I think it's fun to get things done!" Business & Personal Coach. 512.739.7939

February 10th, 2016

Yea! A PM should make a huge difference, if the right one is selected. I like all the advice so far. Here's what I would add: admit that you don't want to leave the new baby with a sitter - but are doing it anyway! A shared vision of the project / timelines / results expected, then scheduled check in on milestones. The more honest you are about your natural, normal unease with letting go, the more your PM will feel comfortable honestly sharing concerns, updates and results in real time. You will both be in a learning curve - and can tackle your appropriate parts of those curves with capability and humor.

Adam Pressman I've helped make a number of people millionaires. I'd like to do it a few more times.

February 10th, 2016

Let it go to let it grow.  Obviously there's room and need for your involvement and as others point out there is a different skill sets for a founder and a PM.  Entrepreneurs are complainers who do something about the way things aren't.  If your product is doing what you sought, being entrepreneurial will just get in the way of you getting more of what it brings you. 


February 10th, 2016

The best way to fail at the next job is to NOT Stop Doing The Previous one.

Second, there are many ways to do something right, if the new person in charge isn't doing it the way YOU'D do it, but it's an OK way, you've got to let it go in the new way, that's why you brought in someone new.

Third, a good corporate culture is essential. However you cannot make a good corporate culture, you can only encourage that which is good and discourage what is bad, and be as surprised as everyone else what emerges.

Finally, if you'll forgive a "One Minute Manager" dictum: find stuff to praise, it'll only take a minute. Try your best to catch someone doing something good.

Joe Albano, PhD Using the business of entrepreneurialism to turn ideas into products and products into sustainable businesses.

February 10th, 2016

Here are two thoughts: 

  1. Explain to your PM that you are new to this and inexperienced. That you WANT to be able to let go, and that you have no history with letting go in general or working with this specific PM. Then come up with a plan for gathering evidence that you CAN trust the PM and live up to that plan. 
  2. Consider all the things that you are NOT getting done because you are wasting time and energy doing work that you are paying someone else to do. Consider that you may be using that work to avoid doing the work of a CTO/cofounder. I suspect that you are a fairly accomplished PM yourself and find that work comfortable. Is it possible that the work of CTO is less familiar and a bit daunting? 

Bruno ROCCA I specialize in revenue generation, and advise companies on all activities required to make it happen

February 10th, 2016

As a founder and a PM for much of my career, it is a very hard question. It is all about clear division of labor. As a founder most of your time should be spent raising money if that is what you need, so delegating authority and responsibility together is critical, and working very hard to insure the transition and respect is maintained.  My experience, is most founders mess this up.  Much of the product vision is in a founders head, and by nature of being a founder they have super-voting sway on everyone else in the organization. Treat your product owner as carefully as you would a spouse, as you will shine or crash based upon how you do this. Great question. Hope other awesome product owners and founders weigh in on this.  Also make sure the systems are in place to insure success( sprint management and collaboration tools), and take a full week to dump all the details in your head out into a platform that really empowers the new PM to be on the same page as you. 

Bruce Fryer Lean Startup Product Management / Strategy / Marketing with a Flair for Innovation

February 10th, 2016

This is an easy question.  Essentially you become the Scrum product owner:
"The product owner is commonly a lead user of the system or someone from marketing, product management or anyone with a solid understanding of users, the market place, the competition and of future trends for the domain or type of system being developed. 

This, of course, varies tremendously based on whether the team is developing commercial software, software for internal use, hardware or some other type of product. The key is that the person in the product owner role needs to have a vision for what is to be built."

David Austin Relentless problem solver and innovator.

February 10th, 2016

Cut the cord, baby! Expect periodic reports.  If that isn't enough, communicate have  periodic 1on1 meetings. I've seen this happen before when the guy doing PM before can't let go. It does not end well.

Balaji Gopalan Co-Founder, MedStack - end-to-end platform for healthcare apps | Product Management Educator, Consultant, Thought Leader

February 10th, 2016

Happy to chat about this. I teach a course in Introduction to Product Management which has set the standard in Toronto. Product Management is a broad far-reaching function with fluid definitions from one company to the next. So I think there should be room for both you and your employee to participate. You could operate in degrees, such as you setting competitive analysis and they responding with suggested differentiators, or you setting business model and they approaching how to communicate it. Most importantly, give them the freedom to explore and lead on their own, so they feel like the authority of *something*. But this is important as you need to start transitioning your role further upwards, so that you can scale. Eventually you will be vision setting and driving perceptions of investors, press, and customers, and providing a framework for the development of the offer, leaving your PM to actually build the offer. This is a good thing. Good luck! Balaji.


February 10th, 2016

I like the response or Bruno ROCCA... treat the PM like a SPOUSE... Yes, I capitalize because it is that important.

As a founder and the "former PM" I salute the idea that you can go into any meeting you wish, into anyone's office you wish, whenever you wish. However, discretion is crucial in order to build confidence and TRUST with your team. 

Attend the Project meetings... take notes, observe, comprehend... but, let the PM run the meeting / the project and program. Your comments, counsel, advice, questions, and redirection should be done IN PRIVATE. Allow the PM to lead and grow and gain the respect of the organization.

You may be dynamic as a founder, visionary and industry leader. However, building an organization for the long-term requires a different skill set... step back, watch, lead in a different way.

I have LIVED this in dramatic fashion with one of the most Iconic Founders and Visionaries of the past 50 years - Michael Dell. Michael would attend my meetings, walk into my office unannounced to discuss strategies and particulars, and would show confidence and trust in me and my team to execute. Michael has a reputation as tough and demanding - so what. Michael always allowed those that had their act together to lead. Michael would walk into my office unplanned and unannounced to discuss details, issues, strategies, and plans. 99% of the time he just wanted to know what I was recommending so that he could support the strategy.

Be an Iconic Founder and Leader. Guide, protect, build, support, and grow!!!

Enjoy being a founder of a growing organization.