Saying No

I wish I could build everything and do it instantly. Unfortunately, that's not the case. (Duh.) But it is frustrating when there are a thousand features that could be built and you're only working on one. It's frustrating to have to say no to the support team. It's frustrating to have to say no to other product teams. It's frustrating to have to say no to customers.

Community forums get hit with request after request. At Shopify, we have an internal tool for tracking feature requests that is multiple pages long. As product manager for a core piece of the company, the admin, has also meant defending the core product from other product managers trying to hit their goals. Other teams want top level navigation. They want banners on the dashboard pushing their product to drive up usage.

I push back.

Being a product manager has meant being the bad guy. I'm okay with that. At the end of the day, I believe that I'm advocating for the best experience for the customer. I hope that'll be reflected in the Net Promoter Score by the end of the next quarter.

What I've seen, though, is that a team needs unequivocal focus if it's going to make it through a sizeable change.

Recently, I've been focusing more on my project management skills. I know that Inspired talks about separating project and product management but I do think that a product manager needs to be able to see the weak spots in the dev or design team and put the bumpers in place to ensure that projects down careen out of control.

It's for this reason that I'm also increasingly weary of open-ended projects with a generic mandate of "make X better." I like to see a clear list of tasks leading to an end goal, one that is never more than 3 months away—and preferably nearer term than that.

The faster the team can get their work done, the faster I can go back to saying yes.

Published May 13, 2014
Categorized as Product Management
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