Updates and additions to my original answer, ten years later
Love this Ian. What about customer research though? I see very few good PMs who know how to do primary customer research - not usability testing or "how would you like this feature?" - but deep anthropological problem discovery that equips them to ideate and evaluate solutions in their head rather than the more common "throw as much spaghetti at the wall as you can and fail fast" approach. I often see this outsourced to designers with mixed results, or to UX research which is good but lossy and orders of magnitude less efficient.
"They don’t file a ticket and wait weeks or months for a BIE or analyst to produce it. " - HUGE
This is good, but it’s missing the motivation aspect. A top 1% pm could do all this, but why do it for someone else and how can the company motivate and incentivize it? This is what makes such pms rarely stick around vs join or start a startup of their own for more upside
What are your thoughts on contributions to culture, growing people around you, empathy for peers in disciplines and customers?
Thanks for this masterpeace.
Maybe it is assumed but the working backwards, competitors and market research is quite fundamental in order to come up with a 6 pager narrative. BTW the working backwards link doesn't work for me.
Ian - re: understanding "technical trade-offs," what technical competencies would you recommend new PMs prioritize early on, especially when they hail from non-CS backgrounds?
A 1% PM is close to the user. They periodically talk to users to understand their thinking process and identify improvement gaps. They don't just rely on mundane surveys conducted by external teams and agencies which take weeks and months. They balance the art(emotional) and science(data) part of taking decisions.