Why product management is hard
(and why good product management matters)
Sometimes, you should imitate competitors.
Other times, watch them closely.
And sometimes, largely ignore them.
Sometimes, you should build what users say they want.
Other times, you shouldn’t.
Sometimes, you need to win on broad differentiation.
Other times, win on distribution.
And sometimes, win on narrow focus.
Sometimes, you should aim for a pixel-perfect product.
Other times, good enough is good enough.
And sometimes, launch a flawed product.
Sometimes, you need to strive for consensus.
Other times, require “disagree & commit”.
Sometimes, the pace of product learning matters most.
Other times, product growth matters most.
And sometimes, product reliability matters most.
Sometimes, only launch positive experiments.
Other times, launch even if metrics are negative.
Sometimes, you should persist until your product is successful.
Other times, you should pivot.
And sometimes, the right call is to sunset it.
This is why product management is hard.
This is why it is so fun.
(for some people at least)
It is also why good product mgmt matters.
Good product mgmt isn’t about always getting it right.
But it is about your team getting it right more often than most smart teams would.
What can we do about this?
First, discard dogma about “the one right way”.
Too many product managers don’t achieve their true potential because they are too attached to “the one right way” of viewing the world, conceiving a product, solving a problem, etc.
They may have stumbled upon an idea, maybe on their own, in a book, or in a pithy tweet.
The idea resonated, so they adopted it.
So they repeated it.
It worked, until it didn’t work.
Alas, by that time it was already ingrained as “the one right way”.
And whenever “the one right way” doesn’t work for them, they place blame elsewhere.
Because they feel they have empirical proof.
It worked for them before, so it should surely work for them again.
What they miss is that context matters more than “the one right way”.
Whenever someone is aggressively pushing their way as the *only way* to build a product, to grow a business, to make a decision, etc. etc., you need to be wary.
And, if they are selling you something, be even more wary.
What can we do about this?
Second, become a clearer, nuanced thinker yourself. Clear thinking is about more precisely understanding your current context, your goals, your constraints, and conceiving better ideas, solutions, and actions based on this understanding.
Lastly, employ frameworks & principles to guide discussions, decisions & communication of decisions.
Use frameworks as your guide.
Make sure that you use frameworks, and that frameworks don’t use you.
(I can cover PM frameworks in a future thread, if there’s interest)