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In anticipation of the release of season 3 of “House of Cards,” our entire team has cleared our social calendar for Saturday. We also thought it’d be fun to explore the ways Frank Underwood would make a good product manager.

House of Cards Kevin Spacey

We used Ben Horowitz’s Good Product Manager/Bad Product Manager post for some defining characteristics of a good product manager.

1. Frank Underwood has his finger on the pulse of DC

“Good product managers don’t give direction informally. Good product managers gather information informally.”

Prior to any major vote or initiative, Underwood and his team poll the relevant parties to get an initial reading on the situation. He uses the information to decide where to focus his team’s time and energy.

2. Underwood works backwards like Amazon

“Good product managers think about the story they want written by the press.”

This particular trait is exemplified in Underwood’s strategic alliance with reporter Zoe Barnes. He simultaneously works with her to publish confidential information or leak incriminating facts about his opponents to the greater public. Result: Underwood tells the story the way he wants.

Reporter Zoe Barnes and Frank Underwood meet

3. Underwood knows when to kill a product

“Good product managers focus on effectively solving user problems, not on creating an impressive list of features.”

Frank Underwood doesn’t let nostalgia or regret stand in the way when getting rid of underperforming parts of his organization. Even after putting a lot of work into building something, he knows when it has outlived its usefulness.

4. Underwood knows how to play and win the game

“Good product managers know the market, the product, the product line and the competition extremely well and operate from a strong basis of knowledge and confidence.”

Underwood is incredibly knowledgeable on the issues he wants approved and passed. He rounds up his supporters quickly, gaining confidence and momentum with their support, but he also recognizes the competition. Underwood is well-versed on the competitive landscape and the various tools he has at his disposal to get what he wants.

5. Underwood delivers

“Good product managers crisply define the target, the “what” (as opposed to the how) and manage the delivery of the ‘what.’”

From the beginning, Frank Underwood is exceptionally ambitious. He starts off in the position of House Majority Whip with the end goal of one day becoming President of the United States. He stays focused on this target and finds solutions past the many political slights, betrayals, and setbacks. Underwood patiently maneuvers his way to the presidency following incumbent Walker’s resignation in the final episode of season 2.

House of Cards Frank Underwood in the Oval Office

While Frank Underwood exemplifies numerous key characteristics of a good product manager, he also possesses tendencies of a bad product manager. In this way, he’s not too different from us — we all have good and bad habits.

The goal for any level-headed product professional should be to remain objective when assessing the performance of your product or process. Only then will you stack up in the “good product manager” category outlined by Ben Horowitz.

Before you head off to binge-watch, don’t forget to create your free Wizeline account!

Posted by on Thursday, February 26, 2015.


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