My thoughts on Brian Chesky's "change" of the PM role in Airbnb
TLDR: No, Airbnb doesn’t seem to be killing the PM function
A few thoughts on Brian Chesky’s decision to change Product Management at Airbnb. TLDR: No, Airbnb doesn’t seem to be killing the PM function.
A bit of context: around June 22nd, Brian told an audience that Airbnb was eliminating the PM role within the company. The reality, corrected by him, is that it’s more of an evolution towards a Product (Marketing/GTM/Business) Manager.
🚨𝐓𝐡𝐢𝐬 𝐢𝐬 𝐚 𝐫𝐞𝐚𝐥𝐥𝐲 𝐠𝐨𝐨𝐝 𝐭𝐡𝐢𝐧𝐠.
Why do I cheer this change? Because unfortunately most PM's I meet are:
- Glorified Project Managers
- Requirement collectors
- Stakeholder shopping list takers
- Carrier pigeons between Leadership and engineers
- Professional “𝘰𝘱𝘪𝘯𝘪𝘰𝘯𝘢𝘵𝘰𝘳𝘴”
All these ☝️ add extremely low value to a product-centric organisation. What really adds value is:
1. True business outcome ownership
2. A consistent voice of the customer
3. A driver of go-to-market impact
If you think about it, a PM is a resource-allocator: “𝘩𝘰𝘸 𝘤𝘢𝘯 𝘸𝘦 𝘥𝘳𝘪𝘷𝘦 𝘙𝘖𝘐 𝘣𝘢𝘴𝘦𝘥 𝘰𝘯 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘳𝘦𝘴𝘰𝘶𝘳𝘤𝘦𝘴 𝘶𝘴𝘦𝘥 𝘱𝘦𝘳 𝘴𝘵𝘳𝘢𝘵𝘦𝘨𝘪𝘤 𝘥𝘦𝘤𝘪𝘴𝘪𝘰𝘯?”. This is what Airbnb’s new role redesign seems to be focusing on: turning the PM into a GM, a General Manager of the impact of the product in the P&L (profit & loss). As it should be. Apple is known to have this “role design”, and at $3T it seems like it’s working.
Brian also mentioned how Design would be “elevated”. This IMHO is politically correct phrasing for “designers need to step up their product-game” (and not just designers but engineers as well). Great product orgs don’t run on a siloed-waterfall-style-process, where engineers get tickets and designers get specs and “now work!”. They collaborate, scope and iterate together.
𝐒𝐨 𝐰𝐡𝐨 𝐢𝐬 ⚠️ 𝐭𝐡𝐫𝐞𝐚𝐭𝐞𝐧𝐞𝐝 𝐛𝐲 𝐭𝐡𝐢𝐬 𝐜𝐡𝐚𝐧𝐠𝐞?
- Engineers that become PM’s and use their “technical expertise” as their strength
- PM’s who are performing due to their project management skills
- PM’s who care more about features rather than the business side of prioritisation
𝐖𝐡𝐨 𝐰𝐢𝐥𝐥 𝐬𝐡𝐢𝐧𝐞 𝐢𝐟 𝐭𝐡𝐢𝐬 𝐩𝐚𝐫𝐚𝐝𝐢𝐠𝐦 𝐬𝐡𝐢𝐟𝐭 𝐭𝐚𝐤𝐞𝐬 𝐨𝐟𝐟?
- Research savvy PM’s who are unafraid to speak with users
- Sales-y PM’s who understand the commercial aspect of product
- PM’s who understand the power of Marketing (and all its variances)
𝐖𝐡𝐨 𝐰𝐢𝐥𝐥 𝐟𝐞𝐞𝐥 𝐰𝐞𝐢𝐫𝐝 𝐚𝐛𝐨𝐮𝐭 𝐭𝐡𝐢𝐬 𝐜𝐡𝐚𝐧𝐠𝐞 (𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐈’𝐦 𝐠𝐥𝐚𝐝 𝐭𝐡𝐞𝐲 𝐰𝐢𝐥𝐥):
- Stakeholder leaders who expect their “shopping lists” to be prioritised
- Managers who want detailed project management reports
- Designers & Engineers who don’t care about the product process and live for their Figmas or IDEs.
I’m looking forward to seeing more PM GMs in the world driving real business impact, and funding it back to create user impact.
PS: Did you know the entire product management foundations program of One Month PM was designed EXACTLY like this? If you want to go deeper, apply for our Fall programs.