Neil McElroy: The Product OG

I’ve often thought of Product Management as a relatively new role in world. While it’s true that digitally it is, the idea and approach, it turns out, isn’t at all.

Neil McElroy was working for Proctor & Gamble in 1931 and wrote a job description that would change the “top-down” approach to a method creating product or “brand” teams as he called it. In just a 3 page memo he laid the foundation for what would later become known as product management.

Product guru Ken Norton wrote a great summary of the important points of McElroy’s job description. One of the things he pointed out was that changing the perspective of the company to a view that was customer-centric as opposed to company-centric was critical. As Norton pointed out the job description had these important parts:

“(a) talk to customers and uncover their problems

(b) develop a product that solves the problem

(c, d) create a channel strategy and sales collateral to sell the product

(e) track the right metrics, iterate, and drive profitability”

Like so many great ideas, quotes, and adages, McElroy’s ideas have stood the test of time. He would later go on to influence the founders of HP with his product perspective! Before the internet, before ubiquitous computing power, the framework that would shape how many innovate was laid described on a typewriter, nearly100 years ago!

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