What I've Learned So Far in Product and Management (Vol. 1)

What I've Learned So Far in Product and Management (Vol. 1)

Taking a break during the pandemic gave me plenty of time to clear my head and reflect. Over the past 9 months, I put together a running list of thoughts of things I've learned and/or mistakes I've made. Most of these are related to product management and startups, but many are more broadly applicable to business and life. Each one of these could be a blog post, and now that I have decided to write every day, the odds are rising that they will. This is the first five from my list of many.

  1. Fight and question the urge to redesign your product. Every redesign I've ever been a part of has taken 2x longer than you ever think it will and picks up scope like a snowball rolling downhill. They do have a time and place but usually a signal of product bloat- you either need to reorganize it or to prematurely to incorporate it. Instead, go deeper on your most important features and experiment with taking things away so your product needs one.
  2. Outcomes over outputs. Most companies spend way too much time focusing on output. What feature(s) are we building now, what feature(s) are next? It's done when it's shipped and move on.  This is a relic from 20th century manufacturing processes and turns tech teams into feature factories. Instead focus on outcomes - what is the change in behavior you wish to achieve. You aren't done until you achieve that outcome.  Most teams and companies can only tackle a few at a time.
  3. The best Product Managers are usually not great Project Managers, and vice versa. Many Product Managers are often responsible for project management duties at a company - especially at early stage startups. This isn't ideal but at the earliest stages the CEO is also customer service, and the CTO is sometimes the designer. Don't let this discourage you. If you're starting out in product management you have to be prepared for project management, but also don't be discouraged if project management isn't your thing. The skill set that it takes to be a good Product Manager and good Project Manager are wildly different. The worst outcome would be to develop project management bad habits in your product management process. For CEO's or CTO's, if you are hiring a product manager, beware of hiring a project manager for the role. If you have a great Product Manager, give her a great Project Manager.
  4. Don't stop milking your cow. Your cow is that one thing your product does well. The feature that people come to you for. For whatever reason, there is an urge to stop trying to milk that cow the second it starts producing milk. The best companies are relentless in milking their cow until there is nothing left.
  5. Your MVP sucks. The concepts behind the Lean Startup are fantastic. In practice I haven't seen it applied well by most teams. If you are spending 3-6 months building something it's probably not an MVP. In most cases a true MVP should be able to be built in a couple weeks or not have to even have to be coded at all. If you're building something that is taking more time, that's cool but don't fool yourself and ship accordingly.