Make the right hard calls. Prioritize ruthlessly. As a product leader, you’re most often evaluated by your ability to make difficult trade-offs quickly. When considering new features to enhance the existing product, what are the critical elements to look for? In the following lines, I’ll describe a process around decision making which you can use as a repeatable and sustainable methodology to constantly make important product decisions. Yes - you won’t have to rely on gut feelings or get trumped by the loudest voice in the room.
Great product managers say no
Research is the center around which all of the other dynamics of product management find their orbit. Spend as much time as necessary to become an expert in all details relating to the medium, the industry, the market and the audience of the product so to provide direction for creating monetizable customer value. This includes a deep understanding of your market, your company’s internal resources and capabilities, the competitive landscape, and any other factors that would affect your decision to include (or not include) a new feature or other requests.
When key influencers ask you to prioritize pet projects or add a superfluous list of features to the roadmap that doesn’t support the primary company objective you can explain to them why you can’t add that. At least not right away. Say you’re looking at critical elements — who’s it for, what problem is it solving, what’s its value proposition and competitive differentiation, and how will it deliver ROI.
As someone who is at the intersection of a lot of critical information in your organization, you are in a unique position to repeat-repeat-repeat and make sure they understand why it’s important to align features with the primary company objective. Why it’s critical to use data, stories to dig deeper to uncover the real pain-points. Why it’s absolutely imperative to focus on major strategic initiatives that will create value for the customer.
Share decision-making responsibility with your team’s experts
To thrive, a product lead requires ridiculous influence. To get stakeholder buy-in, a key ingredient is how you create an atmosphere of mutual support among key influencers. Acknowledge that you are not the sole decision-maker and share decision-making responsibility by crafting a series of "yes or no" questions.
- Does this item support the primary company objective? (fits the vision)
- What is the level of effort required to implement this item? (we can support & afford it)
- Will implementing this generate new meaningful engagement? (solves a problem)
- Will this capability result in new revenue (can be monetized)
- Heck, will it still matter in 5 years?
By engaging in a series of true/false questions you’re using teamwork to align them with a common sense of purpose. This framework built into your product decisions process gives you leverage with the team and focuses all available resources on meeting the company’s main strategic objectives.
Your responsible for managing the team’s most precious resource: time. A good strategy backed by a decision-making framework is critical. Notwithstanding, even a well-oiled process isn’t going to shield you from priority-interference and cost you a feature required by a big prospect –- this is how product works!