The Angels and Demons of Product Management
My previous product-management internship at Redfin trained me to practice two “virtues” to become a great product manager:
- Inspire my team to solve customer problems
- Gather ideas from coworkers, from the data, from competitors, from cartoons … from video games … from the people on the bus … from everywhere.
However, the mistakes I made and learned from this summer, the war stories told by fellow PMs, and the one-on-one conversations with our VP of Product warned me of some subtle “vices” to vigilantly avoid. I want to share these because as productive as virtues are, vices are equally destructive, so to be great PMs, we need to be aware of both.
- Letting Momentum Drag You Down the Sandpit
Because it’s easier to chug along than it is to routinely evaluate a feature (and face the possibility that it failed), underperforming features often linger longer than they should. To avoid this, state specific goals for features, schedule checkpoints to audit them, and no matter how pretty that “flower” may be, prune it if it’s rotten.
- Giving Developers “Shiny Crap” to Keep Them Busy
Because one of our dev’s schedule (Hey Kritin!) was opening up, I felt tempted to rush a spec so I could give him something to do, which only would have sacrificed on the customer research and brainstorming, and surely, birthed a demon-child of a product. To keep that bait from luring you, keep a list of bugs that developers can squash at any time so you feel free to do the due diligence of product planning.
- Letting Pride Turn You into a Lazy Boob
You promise the company employing you that you’re the smartest and the bestest and the cutest, and the company hires you so you must be all those things, right? But then your customers tell you that they’d never use your proposed feature, so your ego whispers into your ear, “They don’t know what they’re saying. I mean … can they even tell BEAUTY when they see it???”
But it’s better to hear customer excitement then build that feature, than it is to code in the dark hoping that “they’ll all see my genius after I release this!” So, never take anything personally, listen truly to customer feedback, go back to the drawing board, and put in the work.
Recap: The Effort is Always Worth it
While it’s more of an upfront cost to build your piggy home with bricks, it’s cheaper and funner than having to pick up the rumble of your stick home after it tumbles.