The Biggest Professional Mistake I Ever Made As A Product Manager, Part 1

Everyone makes mistakes.

Everyone does or says the wrong thing from time to time.

It’s true for Cap, and it’s true for me. Gather ’round, everyone–while I share with you The Biggest Professional Mistake I Ever Made, and what you can learn from it.

Picture It: Waltham, Massachusetts.
December 2003

An olive-skinned Product Manager prepares to launch an Exciting New Product. ENP has been tested, it’s ready to go. But the situation, internally, is less than ideal.

For one, his parent company is in turmoil, and resources from every division (including his) are being reallocated to The New Corporate Initiative.

For another, the lead developer on ENP is about to go on vacation for six weeks in South America.

The Product Manager needs to decide… do we release Exciting New Product now, a few days before Lead Developer departs so he can deal with any issues that crop up–or wait until Lead Developer returns six weeks later, not knowing if the company will still support the product and allow ENP to launch upon his return to the States?

I Made My Choice

No surprise (given the title of this post)… the olive-skinned Product Manager in this story is me.

And I decided to go for it.

After all, it’s the web, right? We’re not printing and shipping discs. If something goes wrong, just patch it or shut it down.

Unfortunately, something did go wrong.

On midnight, December 28.

Eight days after launch, and just hours after Lead Developer boarded a plane for Brazil. Even worse, what happened wasn’t something that could just be patched, and it literally affected thousands of people.

Tomorrow…

We’ll look at what happened–and how my attempt to correct the situation made things worse.

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Christopher Cummings

Blogs about product management. Loves Jesus, his family, comic books, video games, and giant robots. Occasionally crawls through mud and leaps over fire.

19 thoughts on “The Biggest Professional Mistake I Ever Made As A Product Manager, Part 1

  1. It takes courage to blog about one’s mistakes! I’m looking forward to the next episode.

  2. Disagree @MikeBoudreaux cliffhanger-http://bit.ly/H49vT bad tactic, won’t work forget 24hrs – forgotten in a nanosecond

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  3. Disagree @MikeBoudreaux cliffhanger-http://bit.ly/H49vT bad tactic, won’t work forget 24hrs – forgotten in a nanosecond

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  4. As hair-raising as this cautionary tale might turn out to be, I bet some of us reading it will have equally scary stories to tell. But we’ll have to wait for those until the next exciting episode!

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