7 things the Product Manager needs to consider when bypassing processes

Wikipedia, states that: Product lifecycle management (PLM) is the process of managing the entire lifecycle of a product from its conception, through design and manufacture, to service and disposal. Therefore it is important that the product manager believes and supports the processes that the company has implemented. However are there ever situations when it is acceptable to break an agreed process?

The answer depends a lot on the industry and products you’re managing. Very early on in my career I worked as an Avionics Engineer – the company would periodically be audited (with little or no warning) by the CAA, FAA and internal QA department. For obvious reasons failure to adhere to and being seen to follow the laid down processes would be totally unacceptable. Other industries are bound by SOX or ISO 9001 etc…. So if asked, at an interview – it would be wise to demonstrate that you understand and embrace the appropriate processes and procedures. However it would also be good to demonstrate that you can think outside the box. Some industries are not heavily regulated and there will be times when bypassing a process may result in commercial gain. If you feel it is appropriate to bypass processes then by sure to indicate that you would consider the following 7 points:

1. Inform your line manager. The last thing you want is for you boss to approach you if something goes wrong – ensure you keep her/him in the loop.
2. Weigh up the risk and rewards to the company and product. Are you sacrificing quality and therefore the company’s reputation for the sort term commercial gain? E.g. by shipping a product to a customer before it has been fully beta tested. On the other hand if you don’t ship first will your competitor ship before you and gain valuable market share?
3. Weigh up the risk and rewards to your career – in other words would you feel confident defending your actions to corporate management? How would you explain a lost commercial opportunity to the CEO or MD?
4. Keep a record of what was not done or who was not consulted.
5. Send an email, in advance, to those you are asking to actually by pass the process (e.g. support staff) and be sure that you clearly indicate that you as the ‘Product Manager’ are prepared to take full responsibility for any unfavourable outcome.
6. After the event (e.g. a release of a new online feature) be sure to backtrack – tidy up any loose ends and make sure that the records correctly reflect what actually happened and why. Or continue beta testing and offer the first customers a free upgrade etc…
7. Review the process that was bypassed and see if it could be improved to cater for any future emergencies.

My final thought on the topic is never by pass a process if it involves compromising on health and safety, breaking the law or deceiving the customers/end user no matter what the commercial gains.


  1. These are good points. If you find that you're abandoning process more often than you're following it, it's a good indicator that either people don't have confidence in the process or that the process is too heavy. I live in a startup world and we're big on "just in time" process.

    It's a balancing act that you have to be incremental about - you can't just drop a visio diagram of the process on everyone's desk and expect it to be followed. After 2 years running PM at my company and I am still playing whack a mole with projects that pop up; but that's the nature of creative and inventive people.

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