7 Product Management lessons from Suits

The pandemic made life difficult for a lot of people in different ways. People missed social interactions, going out on a whim, enjoying theatre and travel (Oh, I am going into the trouble, social element per se). That made people look into other ways of entertaining themselves. Being one of those people, I resorted to revisiting some drama series from the past but with a twist. I started looking for Product Management lessons in each of those that I planned to watch.

Among the various series I watched, Suits was one of the most impressive. For those of you who watched it already, I am sure you must have been pretty impressed (Your loss, if not ;)). If you have not seen the series, I believe you should. Office conflicts, contrasting personalities, friends turned foes, human emotions — the series has it all. Most importantly, it had all the elements needed to engage and retain its viewers for 9 seasons. At the end or throughout, it reaffirmed some of the most important Product Management 101 lessons.

Shared Vision

  • The core of the series is the co-managing partner concept. Everyone inside the organization knows that they work for the best firm in the city, and they act accordingly. For a product to be successful, all the stakeholders must build and share the vision. Everyone in the team should be on board with it and stay focused. They do what is best for the product.

Research

  • The ‘Pearson Specter Litt’ team always knows where the storm is coming from and how to whether it. First-principles help the balance between issues of strategic as well as tactical nature. By walking the floor often, one gets to know what is stopping them to achieve the end goals. Awareness of competition and market research help the Product Managers to understand the problems and clear their minds on the way forward.

Goals (not a wishlist!)

  • Harvey makes efforts to achieve when he sets his heart at something. He does not have a bucket list that he wishes to fulfill someday. A product manager should have goals for the product. Those would be the guiding principles for the product team. A wishlist of features to deliver — not so cool!

Design thinking

  • Louis Litt has his misgivings and shortcomings, but he leads when the firm is facing extreme pressure. Best ideas emerge from collective Intelligence. If the Product Manager is assumed to be a know-it-all person, the product might not go far. The best way is to ideate together and decide the best course of action together.

‘According to me’ is the only ‘According to’ that matters — Harvey Specter

  • And that, probably, is the only Harvey mantra that PMs shouldn’t follow :)

Focus

Mike Ross finds his true purpose (or call it inner calling) pretty soon and tries to steer his actions in that direction as much as he can. He takes up the Pro Bono cases at the slightest chance as he knows that it is the right thing to do. As a product manager, the focus is more on the problem to solve than the solution.

Practice (Knowing isn’t everything)

  • Mike Ross did not attend Harvard, which was a prerequisite for the firm’s employees. Forget about Harvard, he had not attended any law school for that matter. He has a photographic memory and knows the laws. But, Harvey beats him squarely in the initial days. A product manager’s know-how should be complemented by him/ her being an actual practitioner. Else, that could be a recipe for unwanted outcomes.

Change for better

  • The Law firm starts as ‘Pearson HardMan’, but it becomes ‘Litt Wheeler Williams Bennett’ in the end. When to proceed or pivot can be decided by retrospecting and seeing what could have been done differently. PMs need to correct course at the right time by continuous monitoring/ measurement.

What other lessons can you think of?

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