How does your team make sure you’re working on the right thing?

  • 4 November 2021
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Userlevel 7
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James Clear had a good quote in his newsletter today:

“The biggest risk to productivity is always the same: working on the wrong thing.”

We talk often about the importance of working on the right things as part of Product Excellence and the importance of being customer-centric and putting the pains, needs, and desires of customers at the heart of your product development (for more on this, check out our Customer Centricity Playbook).

How does your team make sure you’re working on the right thing?


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Great question @scott.baldwin, but to me the question represents what Product Management is all about. After all, shouldn’t prioritization be about finding the next most important right thing to work on? 

The thing is that you can never be truly 100% sure, you can only keep increasing your confidence. In Kontent, we do that by trying to shortuct the learning-loop as much as possible:

  • How much data do we have about the feature request in ProductBoard?
  • How does the market/competition landscape looks like?
  • Is there a prototype we can create to validate before we get into development?
  • How does the new feature request aligns with our strategy and rest of our product?

But sometimes you won’t learn whether you worked on the right thing until you release it to your customers - then the true learning comes. And sometimes you learn the hard truth. But that’s absolutely fine as long as you keep the release cycle as short as possible (while still being reasonable & meaningful) and you learn from the real-world feedback.

You’ll make mistakes along the way, that’s inevitable and part of the life of a product manager. And I personally believe, that sometimes fast & some decision, is better that overanalyzed and none. After all, the world of software is getting more and more turbulent.
 

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@martinmichalik I wholly agree with this statement: 

You’ll make mistakes along the way, that’s inevitable and part of the life of a product manager. And I personally believe, that sometimes fast & some decision, is better that overanalyzed and none. After all, the world of software is getting more and more turbulent.

One of the major aspects of Product Management is not just going through discovery, understanding the value the feature or product will bring to its users/the market, but also learning from your lessons. There’s a reason why there’s always that “never-ending list of MVPs” in some organizations - it’s often easier to get a feature out the door, learn the hard lessons, iterate until it provides the full scope of value originally conceptualized/envisioned. 

Sometimes we’re at the behest of retainer-specific features and sometimes we’re looking towards the future with leap-frog technology/features that puts us above the rest. We focus on the amount of feedback from users, the market, and how much effort it takes to navigate around tech debt to create our “North Star” as to whether we’re building the right thing or not. One thing I’ve always been focused on is to ensure that whatever we put out there - the foundation is productized and provides value to the product as a whole. 

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