i need a reality check

Signs You Have Crossed The Line

Posted in Product by josh duncan on January 28, 2009

I received a few questions on my previous post, Can you be too passionate about your product?, wondering how can you tell when you crossed the line.  It’s a great question but usually hard to answer until after the fact.  Here are a few things I came up with.

You find your self saying any of the following:

  • What do you mean a billion users in the first year is too high?
  • I am sure that the usability feedback was wrong.  This thing is a breeze to figure out.
  • All we have to do is get 1% of the market.
  • 7/12 people in the focus group said they would buy this.
  • Developments first round of estimates look great.  I am sure that there will not be any changes.
  • Sales will come around, eventually….

or you are using any of the following assumptions:

  • You have decided not to use the low, medium, or high forecast estimate and are instead using the “Knock it out of the park” forecast.
  • You are fourth to market but hope to still be seen as a innovator in the space.
  • Your business case only makes sense when you capture 40% share from the market leaders.
  • You don’t have a business case….

What else?

Can You Be Too Passionate About Your Product?

Posted in Product by josh duncan on January 26, 2009

If you were putting together a skill set list for a product manager, you would probably end up with something like this (as a start):

  • Customer/market knowledge
  • Communication skills
  • Facilitation/collaboration
  • Ability to influence without authority
  • Subject matter expertise

And the number one thing to tie all of this together, passion.  Often during the development of a product, you have to be the champion to get things done and overcome obstacles.  Whether or not you are selling a new product concept to executives,  features/changes to your development team or working with sales to get to buy-in, you need to have passion to generate excitement.  If others feel like you don’t believe in your product, they aren’t going to find a reason on their own.

The problem here is that over time you can start to drink your own cool-aid and become too attached to your product.  How many times you have heard the analogy comparing product management to raising a child?  Once you get this close, you can have difficulty making decisions that are objective.  You can find yourself making justifications for your product even when the winds of change may be starting to point in another direction.

I am going to go ZEN here for a moment and borrow a bit from a great book, Seven Laws of Spiritual Success.  Chapter six talks about the importance of being detached in order to stay objective.  If you are too attached to something, you will start failing to see the big picture.

Therefore, I am going to submit that in order to be a successful (long term) product manager, you need to be:

Passionately Detached

You still need to be the head cheerleader but you also need to be able to make the tough decisions when needed.  It is really hard to have to change direction after you convinced everyone it was a good idea.  However, it will be better to make this decision the right way instead of getting it out on the market and having them tell you that you blew it.

What do you think?