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You must keep shipping cool new things or die
This tweet by Paul Graham is one of the most contrarian and important thoughts to manage a product area or PMs.
- Focus in outcomes, not outputs.
- Build things that move the (OKR) needle and add value to the business
- Launch small, iterate towards seeing your goals improve
- Listen to user problems, and solve them
But when you see the reality of product management, often getting to outcomes is about improving processes, iterating on unsexy stuff, killing bugs created by the unsexy stuff, cleaning operational fires, and building stuff stakeholders want (or think they want).
Most of the time this ☝️ isn't "the cool sh*t". These aren't the "new, crazy ideas" we would all like to build. And as humans (and highly sought out talent) any PM, engineer or designer that hasn’t shipped exciting things for long enough will simply move somewhere they can. Any product leader knows losing your team has a more devastating effect than building the wrong stuff.
A balanced roadmap betting theory also says you should have:
#1 - the unsexy OKR needle movers we simply need to work
#2 - The sexy (possible but not 100% obvious) OKR needle mover
#3 - The sexy, world-shaking, "cool sh*t" (that we would love it moved OKRs but likely won't)
But again: reality kicks in and you realise you’re de-prioritising #2 (not enough confidence), and theory doesn’t even allow you to spend capacity on #3. But you have to do it, otherwise you won’t have a team to grind on #1.
My advice is:
1. Manage expectations towards a healthy balance (eg: 60%, 30%, 10% respectively) with management and stakeholders.
2. Get teams to go deep in their confidence-building for #2 and #3 (dig data, run research, test prototypes).
3. Be bold on #3. At least it’s high-risk-high-reward, gets everyone pumped, makes the product vision a bit closer to reality.
4. Evangelize the need of #1 to “pay for” #2 and #3.
5. Show data from previous #2 and #3 experiments, so the investment is justified (if it works, you convince management to invest more, if it fails, the team understand why #1 needs rebalancing)
Let's get building cool things that move the needle