Heavyweight Product Management

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Leading literature in product development (see seminal works at Open Source Product Development) indicate that the most successful management style - in complex projects requiring an interdisciplinary approach - is the Heavyweight Project Manager (HPM) model. For successful integration of multiple areas and stakeholders - a strong guiding hand is needed.

This heavyweight product manager is not in a directive as much as a facilitative role - but does have leadership and power to influence decisions in a substantial way.

Applied to OSE, this means:

  • The project manager does not focus on financial capital to access development effort, but rather a more integrated approach of Open Source capital. This means understanding of Open Source collaboration and how common interest and efficiency can be leveraged in an open and voluntary development process. The advantage of an open source approach is that contributors are not alienated from their work via compensation, but instead rely on their self determination to be part of a team. This provides more authentic and integrated results. See 9 Forms of Capital.
  • A high management ratio is required for effective use of an HPM's time. This leverage ratio is the amount of time speent managing a certain team, vs the amount of work that the team puts in on the critical path. This ratio should be an absolute minimum of 40:1 management:work time. Ie, one manager is able to extend themselves 40 times. If we assume a low value production scenario of $1k value generated per month, this still indicates that one manager can produce a limit of $40k/month of value via their team, translating to a $1/2M per year organization. In a better scenario of average competent workers at $4k/month value generation, this indicates a $2M/year net organization.
  • In the open source world, quality contributors are always key. Prior to hiring, all candidates should display their capacity to collaborate with HPMs via a track record of team contributions as set by the HPM's roadmap
  • The most powerful HPMs are those who understand OSE Specifications, and who are able to translate them into design requirements, product designs, and operational plans, and roadmaps.
  • Because the effort required to execute complex, ambitious, integrated projects is on the scale of an Apollo Program or Manhattan Project, it is likely that funding for such is not available. This is especially true if transformative projects are being considered, where inertia and special interests prevent the forward motion of society at large. To address the funding gap, high value, modular products must be undertaken, and positive capital feedback loops should be created via principles of Distributive Enterprise.
  • large funding sources, if available, should be questioned


From the HBR article - [1] -

When cars were designed and developed by a handful of engineers working under the direction of a Henry Ford, a Gottlieb Daimler, or a Kiichiro Toyoda, organization was not an issue. What mattered were the engineers’ skills, the group’s chemistry, and the master’s guidance. These are still vital to product integrity; but the organizational challenge has become immeasurably more complex. Developing a new car involves hundreds (if not thousands) of people working on specialized pieces of the project in many different locations for months or even years at a time. Whether their efforts have integrity—whether the car performs superbly and delights customers—will depend on how the company organizes development and the nature of the leadership it creates.

But the question begs asking: why are hundreds (if not thousands) working on specialized pieces of the project? This already seems like failure by design. Does not open source transparency obviate that - and the only challenge is integration? That is, all the specialist knowledge should be transparent and easy to understand by integrators. That is a possibility with open source, and an emphasis on transparency. I suspect that the proprietary nature of all the many parts is what makes it unmanageable - ie, communication between different parts becomes immensely difficult.

The ideal solution: opensource the design, delete the specialists, and fill the ranks with integrators who make a superior product - with a smaller team.


  • HBR article states that Heavyweight Product Managers distinguish their work by integrity - referring to the integrated development process where the left hand actually knows what the right hand is doing. This yields consistent, quality results. What distinguishes outstanding product developers is the consistency between their formal structures and the informal organization that accomplishes the real work of development. [2]
  • Mini Apollo Program