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Product Management Joke: The Three Envelopes

A new Product Manager finds a note and three envelopes on his desk. The note is from his predecessor, and it says, “I’ve left you three envelopes. If you encounter a problem you can’t resolve, open one of the envelopes…”

Three months later, the PM faces his first real challenge: the product he took over mid-way through the development cycle has hit the skids–and the PM senses knives being sharpened and a blamestorm starting to build. The uneasy PM remembers the strange letter left by his predecessor, and opens the first envelope. Inside is this simple message: “Blame your predecessor.” He does, and gets off the hook.

Several months later, the PM’s product line experiences a severe dip in sales and the response from the VP of Sales–widely accepted throughout the organization–is “the product feature set is all wrong”. Panicking, the PM opens the second envelope. It says: “Blame software piracy.” The PM makes his case to senior management, and gets them to agree to a new plan designed to discourage piracy. Within a few weeks, sales are on the rise and the PM looks like a genius.

A year later, at the next crisis, the PM opens the final envelope. It says: “Prepare three envelopes.”

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