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This is the blog of Adam Kalsey. Unusual depth and complexity. Rich, full body with a hint of nutty earthiness.

Management & Leadership

Micromanaging and competence

Too many leaders are so afraid of micromanaging that they become completely hands off.

But giving instruction to build competence is not micromanagement. Neither is providing feedback. Avoiding instruction or feedback because you fear the micromanager label does a disservice to your employee.

If I’m driving with Frank and I say he should check his mirror more often, that sounds like obvious micromanagement. But what if I told you that Frank is my nephew and has only been driving for a week?

The context is important. Now I’m not micromanaging, I’m giving instruction to...

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Management & Leadership

My productivity operating system

How do you get things done? How do you decide what needs to be done? An operating system that gives you a repeatable process can be the difference between a productive day and a day wasted reacting to whatever comes up.

Here’s the operating system I use to organize my work. I’ve taught this to others who have found this system effective.


It starts with a vision. What big thing are you trying to accomplish? Imagine that a year from now you’re successful at something. What do you imagine that you accomplished? It’s hard to plan if you don’t have something to plan toward.

The vision isn’t some...

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Management & Leadership

Great product managers own the outcomes

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.

1. Are you failing them?

If marketing can’t write a GTM strategy for your product, they probably don’t understand the product well enough. How strong are your product materials?

How are your PRDs, customer profiles, research summaries, one pagers, FAQs, or whatever your...

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Product Management

Too Big To Fail

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.

When you put a giant team on a nascent idea, you can’t let it fail. Sunk-cost thinking drives you to keep things going because you’ve already invested so much. Politically, the backers of the idea need it to keep going so they don’t have to admit failure. And if you’ve told partners,...

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Product Management

Go small

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.

The product loses cohesion.

In the early days of a product, you’re still figuring out what you’re building. Strategy and plans shift rapidly. Big groups struggle with this. A big group needs extensive coordination and planning to align everyone’s work. It’s hard to...

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Product Management

Start with a Belief

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.

Recently Written

Micromanaging and competence (Jul 2)
Providing feedback or instruction can be seen as micromanagement unless you provide context.
My productivity operating system (Jun 24)
A framework for super-charging productivity on the things that matter.
Great product 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.


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