The Perfect Product — Part I
This is loosely based on a blog post I wrote for Atlassian. I’m breaking up some of those ideas into a few smaller posts here.
Introduction to the blog series
Confession: I’m a perfectionist. I’ve learned that for me, the biggest impediment to shipping value to users is the temptation to pursue the perfect product. (Any other PMs struggle with that? Just me?)
I thought I’d share some of those thoughts around focus, knowing when to ship, and ultimately, how to fight the perfect product. Onwards to part one!
Part I: Focus
Cast the vision, build the version
As product managers, we have a lot of jobs, but one of them is to constantly be providing the right focus. Working with the team to find and frame up the right problems, then designing and building the solution, version by version.
Think about your last kick-off meeting. Part of the goal there is to align around a shared understanding of the immediate problem to solve and how success will be measured, but also to give the team a glimpse into what the solution could grow into. The team needs to know the vision and how this problem relates to the long term goals in order to build the first version.
I’ve seen too many product leaders skip that step in an effort to get a project going faster. So they kick it off and communicate with the team exclusively on the project level with the team. It generally goes like this:
PM: “Okay, here’s what we’re going to do for the next four weeks. And what it’s going to look like. And how we’re going to build it. Go! Go! Go!”
Then someone on the team does this:
Because that’s insane. Your team is more than a group of order takers. (And they usually have better ideas than you anyway.)
Help them, especially your triad (product, engineering, design) partner with you around the problem by extending the conversation beyond the version to think holistically towards the future vision.
For your next kick-off, help focus the team by balancing:
Casting the vision. Show them what the future looks like. How does this problem relate to our company OKRs? What do we think is around the corner with the next version? What will users be saying about this in two years?
Building the version. Clear the path for the short-term. What problem(s) are we solving with this specific first version? How will we know if we succeed? How will the first version inform the next version?
Focus too much on the version, and you’re underestimating the power of your team. Focus too much on the vision, and you’re never going to ship!
The fight against the perfect product starts with you, PM!
Help fight the perfect product by providing the right focus — reminding the team that you’re building a version towards the vision. Create a shared understanding of the long-term vision, while being crisp about the immediate goal.
Cast the vision, build the version.