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Great prodct managers own the outcomes

May 14, 2024

A product manager complained that marketing was asking for a marketing strategy for his product. He didn’t want to do it. “Why should I have to do their job?”

I had a few bits of advice.

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Too Big To Fail

April 9, 2024

Another risk that comes with overfunding a new idea at a large company is that it becomes a must-win idea. It can’t fail.

Failure is an important part of innovation. Not all ideas are good ones. Ideas that aren’t winning need to die. The company needs to prune them so they can put energy into something else.

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Go small

April 4, 2024

When a large company that doesn’t have a culture of innovation decides to start something new, it often fails because it throws too much money and too many people at the initiative.

Lots of funding changes what success means. The product can’t start small and grow. It needs to win big, fast. If it’s not an immediate breakthrough, it’s a failure.

But innovative products aren’t built that way. Great products are discovered over time, not invented in a flash of brilliance.

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Start with a Belief

April 1, 2024

People looking at a data dashboard with an idea lightbulb in the middle

To build successful products using data and experiments, you must start with a hypothesis. Data can inform your decisions, but they cannot decide for you. Simply following the data wherever it leads will create an incoherent product. It will be lifeless and uninspiring.

Successful products begin with an insight. Data isn’t insight. Data by itself can lead you astray. It’s easy to drive a single metric up in a way that is harmful in the long term. Without an insight into how that number should move, chasing the data can lead to a quantitative success that’s a qualitative failure.

Start with the question you want to answer. Start with a belief about the world. Those beliefs can be formed by past research and experiments. Past data can reveal context or trends that become a hypothesis. The beliefs can also come from experience, domain expertise, observation, or even creative sparks.

Experiments and data can validate your hypothesis. You have an idea that if you do something you’ll change the way people behave. They’ll buy more products. They’ll use this feature more. They’ll stick around longer. They’ll invite their friends. The data tells you if you are right. It helps you add detail to your hypothesis. It tells you the idea was correct for some people but wrong for others.

Without a hypothesis to start from, data can’t provide insights. You don’t know what the data is telling you. Be data-informed, not data-driven.

Mastery doesn’t come from perfect planning

December 21, 2023

There was a ceramics class where half the class was told they had to create one dish for the semester and the quality of that dish would be the basis of the grade. The other half the class was told their grade would be based on how many dishes they made, but quality didn’t matter.

The first group spent the semester designing the perfect dish. They spent weeks picking out just the right material. They agonized over sketches of their designs. They argued over colors and styles.

The second group just made dishes. They made 3 the first week. The second week, they were able to move faster and made 8. Those 8 weren’t any better than the first 3. But a few weeks in, they knew how to make dishes and their designs were improving.

At the end of the semester,the first group had one pretty good dish. But the second group had dozens of amazing dishes.

Because they got more reps in actually creating dishes, they started making really nice ones. The others had a good theory of what would make a good dish, but only had one shot at turning that theory into reality.

The first group’s dish was a cup. It was pretty good, but the teacher had hoped for a bowl. The second group had cups, plates, bowls, and statues.

In product management, you’ll never plan your way to a perfect product. But by running lots of reps, you’ll make lots of fantastic ones.

The Dark Side of Input Metrics

November 27, 2023

Input metrics can be helpful to track progress toward long-term goals, but they can cause issues if not used carefully. They might make people act in ways you didn’t expect, limit creativity, and lead to micromanaging.

Darth Vader as a Chart cartoon

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Recently Written

Great prodct managers own the outcomes (May 14)
Being a product manager means never having to say, "that's not my job."
Too Big To Fail (Apr 9)
When a company piles resources on a new product idea, it doesn't have room to fail. That keeps it from succeeding.
Go small (Apr 4)
The strengths of a large organization are the opposite of what makes innovation work. Starting something new requires that you start with a small team.
Start with a Belief (Apr 1)
You can't use data to build products unless you start with a hypothesis.
Mastery doesn’t come from perfect planning (Dec 21)
In a ceramics class, one group focused on a single perfect dish, while another made many with no quality focus. The result? A lesson in the value of practice over perfection.
The Dark Side of Input Metrics (Nov 27)
Using input metrics in the wrong way can cause unexpected behaviors, stifled creativity, and micromanagement.
Reframe How You Think About Users of your Internal Platform (Nov 13)
Changing from "Customers" to "Partners" will give you a better perspective on internal product development.
Measuring Feature success (Oct 17)
You're building features to solve problems. If you don't know what success looks like, how did you decide on that feature at all?


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Adam Kalsey

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