Tag: project management

Conceptual integrity

As a project manager, as a product manager, and as a consultant, the thing that often frustrates me is the desire to go full steam ahead without a shared understanding of what it actually is that we’re supposed to be doing.

Dorian Taylor, in a wider-ranging piece about Agile, talks about this as conceptual integrity:

The one idea from the 1970s most conspicuously absent from Agile discourse is conceptual integrity. This—another contribution from Brooks—is roughly the state of having a unified mental model of both the project and the user, shared among all members of the team. Conceptual integrity makes the product both easier to develop and easier to use, because this integrity is communicated to both the development team and the user, through the product.

Without conceptual integrity, Brooks said, there will be as many mental models as there are people on the team. This state of affairs requires somebody to have the final say on strategic decisions. It furthermore requires this person to have diverse enough expertise to mentally circumscribe—and thus have a vision for—the entire project in every way that was important, even if not precisely down to the last line of code.

Source: Agile as Trauma | dorian taylor

Product managers as knowledge centralisers

If you asked me what I do for a living, I’d probably respond that I work for Moodle, am co-founder of a co-op, and also do some consultancy. What I probably wouldn’t say, although it would be true, is that I’m a product manager.

I’m not particularly focused on ‘commercial success’ but the following section of this article certainly resonates:

When I think of what a great product manager’s qualities should be, I find myself considering where the presence of this role is felt the most. When successful, the outside world perceives commercial success but internally, over the course of building the product, a team would gain a sense of confidence, rooted in a better understanding of the problem being addressed, a higher level of focus and an overall higher level of aptitude. If I were to summarize what I feel a great product manager’s qualities are, it would be the constant dedication to centralizing knowledge for a team in all aspects of the role — the UX, the technology and the strategy.

We haven’t got all of the resourcing in place for Project MoodleNet yet, so I’m spending my time making sure the project is set up for success. Things like sorting out the process of how we communicate, signal that things are blocked/finished/need checking, that the project will be GDPR-compliant, that the risk register is complete, that we log decisions.

Product management has been popularized as a role that unified the business, technology and UX/Design demands of a software team. Many of the more established product managers have often noted that they “stumbled” into the role without knowing what their sandbox was and more often than not, they did not even hold the title itself.

Being a product manager is an interdisciplinary role, and I should imagine that most have had varied careers to date. I certainly have.

There is a lot of thinking done around what the ideal product manager should have the power to do and it often hinges around locking down a vision and seeing it through to it’s execution and data collection. However, this portrayal of a product manager as an island of synergy, knowledge and the perfect intersection of business, tech and design is not where the meaty value of the role lies.


A sense of discipline in the daily tasks such as sprint planning and retrospectives, collecting feedback from users, stand up meetings and such can be seen as something that is not just done for the purpose of order and structure, but as a way of reinforcing and democratizing the institutional knowledge between members of a team. The ability for a team to pivot, the ability to reach consensus, is a byproduct of common, centralized knowledge that is built up from daily actions and maintained and kept alive by the product manager. In the rush of a delivery and of creative chaos , this sense of structure and order has to be lovingly maintained by someone in order for a team to really internally benefit from the fruits of their labour over time.

It’s a great article, and well worth a read.

Source: We Seek