My Manager has no Product Background – What to do

My manager has no product background. How shall I as a product manager deal with the situation? This is a topic that not only affects product managers on an executive level. As a Chief Product Officer, I would typically have a CEO as a line manager who doesn’t have a product background. But it can also happen to a Head of Product who reports to a CTO. Or to a Product Owner who is part of a Marketing Team.

Setups like this may occur in companies that are not aware of the fact that they actually are product companies. Product and IT is for them the execution department – based on “business” requirements. In case you are interested in learning more about product companies, please read a blog post that has been published earlier (“Product company maturity – how to find out where you stand.”) In such companies it is typical to have line managers who come from different backgrounds than product management.

At first sight, this might not matter. But think again! A person who isn’t used to thinking customer centric and who doesn’t understand the essence of agility will have a hard time with a product manager who challenges every bit that is asked from him/her.

Let’s have a look at the following dialogue. This dialogue is made up. However, it could happen any time between you and your line manager.

A made up real-world dialogue

A: I need your product roadmap for the next two years!

B: We work agile and always focus on the most valuable things first.

A: I need your product roadmap

B: We don’t know which features we are going to deliver such long term because we want to validate before developing

A: I need your product roadmap for the next two years

B: We have a long term north star and perfectly know which KPIs we want to move the needle on for business

A: I need…

I am sure almost every product manager has experienced something like this is his/her career. What do to do about it?

The Trainer Jörg Malang

Jörg Malang
Trainer Jörg Malang

The SPLSG initiator and founding partner Jörg Malang offers training in Barcelona, Berlin, London, Malta, and Munich for exactly this challenge.


This training focuses on the following content:

  • Defining what is meant by “Managing my Manager”
  • Understanding the different backgrounds (CTO, CMO, CEO, etc.).
  • Identifying the common ground between my Manager and me.
  • Real-world role play to come to a deeper understanding of the different motivations.
  • Create a forum for experience exchange – also beyond the training.

The trainer has more than 20 years of experience including long years of being exposed to such situations. During his career, Jörg reported to people with the following backgrounds in companies like Nokia, XING, HRS Group, Betsson, and more:

  • (Supervisory) Board / Investors
  • Business Development
  • IT
  • Commercial Officer/Operations
  • Sales/Business Development

Therefore, he can bring valuable insight to the table and plenty of real-world case studies to learn from. Please find out more about locations and cost for this training here. Jörg is also more than happy to jump on a chat with anyone who might be interested in know more.

Please send us an Email.