The Challenge of Managing the Whole Product as a Feature Owner

I recently had a conversation with someone who co-managed a healthy sized organization at Microsoft (~50 program mangers and engineers).  The goal of the chat was to explore some customer development techniques her team had been using to try and learn how they could be applied to the work my team was doing.  But right off the bat, the conversation took a turn I hadn’t expected.  Some of the work she had been doing was pulled in the 11th hour and she seemed disenfranchised with her lack of control and autonomy over the product.  Her argument was, that even as a PM Lead, you are basically only the owner of a feature and not of a product.  Therefore, you don’t have enough span of control to effectively employ customer development.  This disempowered line of reasoning runs completely counter to my personal philosophy.  As such, I have spent the last couple of weeks mulling over the conversation and pondering the relationship between span of control, influence, customer advocacy, and sense of responsibility.

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