Heavyweight product managers typically have formal procedures, and they are well-supplied with authority and influence within the organization. They are also empowered with the right tools and resources to handle a wide variety of responsibilities. These tools and resources enable them to control the schedule of prototypes and have a high degree of authority within the organization.
Lightweight product managers assess the market
Lightweight product managers assess the market for a new or existing product. Their role is to lead efforts to determine what the customer needs are, define the requirements for new products, and support the commercial launch. In addition, they contribute to the product line planning and portfolio strategy. Lightweight product managers do not have overall profit responsibility. Instead, they are more like peers in a product team.
While the role of a lightweight product manager is important, they must also know how to work effectively with a cross-functional team. They must have the ability to influence project performance and cross-functional alignment, as well as establish a clear mission and project targets. Research suggests that a talented product manager can spend hours on a street, listening to conversations, and observing styles. These observations are part of their “market research beat,” which may include department stores, museums, and sports arenas.
Whether a heavyweight or lightweight product manager, the process of developing a product is different. Heavyweight product managers work on the detail design of specific parts of a product. Their work is critical to the integrity of the new product. They also work closely with functional engineering departments, which means they communicate frequently and directly with them. They also often have to step in when a central decision is being made that is detrimental to the product’s integrity or success.
They act as a peer on the product team
The product team is the most important part of any business, and heavyweight product managers have a significant role to play. They are responsible for choosing what gets built, marketing new products, supporting new customer experiences, and evaluating performance. The structure of a product team is unique to each company, but they typically include representatives from engineering, product marketing, design/UX, customer support, and more.
They provide guidance to engineers
A heavyweight product manager structure provides guidance to engineers and promotes internal integrity. This structure promotes collaboration and communication among the different functions, which speeds up problem solving and improves coordination of work flows. Moreover, this structure helps the product manager keep a strong customer orientation. Consequently, he or she has more influence within the organization.
Heavyweight product managers perform general-manager duties, such as coordinating production and sales, and coordinating the project from concept to market. They also sign off on the specifications, layout, and major component choices for the product. They also maintain direct contact with the customer. As a result, they are considered to be concept guardians. Additionally, the heavyweight manager often has extensive experience working with the company, which boosts his or her influence among engineers who lack formal authority.
A heavyweight product manager is often an evangelist for the concept. This role requires constant reiteration of the product concept and its value to the customer. This is accomplished through frequent communication with functional engineering departments, and a heavyweight manager may direct intervene if central decisions are being made without the necessary input.
They promote internal integrity
A heavyweight product manager is an important role within the company because of his or her ability to protect a product concept and leverage organizational clout, personal credibility and knowledge. Many of these managers are also engineers by training, and so their knowledge of product engineering and process development is extensive. In addition, they have years of experience in their company, which increases their influence with people outside of their formal authority.
In recent decades, rapid technological advances and intense international competition have made internal integrity an even more important factor for product development. In addition, increasingly sophisticated and demanding customers have made “good enough” an unattainable standard in many markets. With these forces at play, it is becoming increasingly difficult to maintain product integrity. However, there are ways to improve internal integrity and build a stronger product team. By establishing a heavyweight product manager structure, an organization will be more responsive to the needs of customers.
In addition to fostering internal integrity, heavyweight product managers are highly visible. They are often the ones who visit test facilities, talk with test engineers and evaluate their cars on the test track. As such, they establish strong communication channels and deepen relationships with younger engineers. One product manager was even known to welcome disagreements among test engineers.