Jon’s Top 10 Product Mistakes

Who said anything about commandments? I’m talking about mistakes!

Mistakes. Yeah, I’ve made a few. Anyone who spends any time managing product teams has as well. It’s part and parcel of doing the job. And I’m not talking about the vaunted Failure Culture that we all aspire to create, where we embrace our failed product attempts as heroic learning opportunities. I’m talking more about the operational ones that can stall productivity, sag morale and halt a team cold in its tracks.

We’ve all been there. Here’s a few of the issues that I’ve seen over the years and a few solutions.
1. A lack of trust leads to broken features, releases and team commitment. A team that doesn’t work correctly isn’t going to function correctly. Period. 

2. When I say a lack of trust, I mean Product Managers not trusting Developers to build the product the right way and developers not trusting PMs to define the right product. And if that relationship is broken, it most likely will emanate throughout the whole company.

3. If you don’t have trust between PMs and Devs, you can forget about shipping great products. Or even good ones.

4. The concept of the Minimum Viable Product works. But teams forget to define what Viable means. It’s a great idea to create the smallest amount of features and software to test a theory. But far too often under developed ideas get shipped and you cannot discern if it was the idea or the execution. If you spend a lot more time in early stages figuring out what viable means for your users, you will alleviate this issue.
5. A good product process is an insurance policy against wasting time and resources. It does not mean you will ship a product that succeeds. That’s something else entirely. You’ll need to go a lot deeper to get to great ideation.
6. No matter how much you say it, people just want to build a product for themselves. Fighting this is the most important job a PM can do.
7. If you hear team members say ‘That’s not the way I use the product’ it means that your PM is failing on number six. 
8. If you hear ‘That’s not the way I use the product’ from your PM, you’ve got a very serious problem. If a PM has had experience running a product that she or he has no interest in it–or even openly dislikes–it can help mitigate this issue.
9. You don’t get credit for ideas. Only products and features that you shipped. You don’t get glory for stuff that you shipped. Only products that perform. Product isn’t a thinking and doing job. It’s a performing job.
10. If the team isn’t performing, consider changing your PM. While not always fair, it’s the PM’s job to get that performance out of team. Think of a PM like a manager of a professional baseball team. When a club struggles it replaces the manager because you can’t replace the other 25 members of the team. Same thing with the PM. It might not even be the case that a PM is doing a bad job. It could be you just need another voice that resonates with your team.