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12 contrarian thoughts on product management
AKA what reality teaches you that theory doesn’t
Here are 12 contrarian thoughts on product management (aka what reality teaches you that theory doesn’t):
1. If you focus just on outcomes, you’ll end up failing more often than not. Most times, getting to the outcome is about increasing the output.
2. PMs should write user stories or JIRA tickets if that is what’s needed to get the team shipping. Focusing on strategy and discovery is useless if stuff doesn’t get shipped.
3. Different PM teams should have their own processes and ceremonies, not the same cookie cutter as everyone else. Normalising processes is for management’s comfort, not team’s performance. Problems are solved by performing teams.
4. Most squads need PMs to behave as if they are the team’s manager, even though they don’t manage anyone. Lack of leadership atitude is the biggest killer to a team’s performance.
5. Not everything needs success measurement. If you only execute on stuff you can perfectly measure, you’ll miss out on features that can really help your team, the process or even the product.
6. Most of the time stakeholders are wrong. It’s not that what they think matters, doesn’t matter: it’s that they think their thing matters the most. Most of the time, it’s literally useless, and no customer remotely cares.
7. An organised sprint is a sprint that lacks ambition. Building product is about learning. Learning is about validating hypothesis. If all hypothesis are true, you’re not risking enough. Chaos equals discovery. Discovery equals disruption. Disruption equals value.
8. If everyone feels excited about a scope, design or prototype, and they don’t question or argue that something is wrong, you don’t have enough critical thinking, and your team is weak. Disagreement is healthy, raises the bar and de-risks edge cases.
9. MVPs don’t work for most companies. Customers have expectations, especially from companies with existing products. Most MVPs don’t meet expectations.
10. Maximising your sprints (work in progress) will actually reduce how much you deliver. Exhausted teams stop thinking critically, creatively, miss edge cases, and care less about quality.
11. A humble PM is better than an arrogant PM. But an arrogant PM always over performs a self-doubting PM.
12. PMs should feel exclusive, out-of-reach, tough to access. If everyone is “afraid” of PMs, they’ll either think twice before asking for useless things and wasting engineering time, or they will overprepare.
I am often reviewing these thoughts. Some will be proven wrong by talented PMs. Others will be deeply validated by equally talented PMs.