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The #1 Rule of Product Management
Hello! I’m Aaron Kardell. In this Sunday newsletter, I pick one random topic weekly to go deep on and have some disparate quick hits at the end.
As founder and CEO, I always wanted us to do more and move faster than might be reasonable. Around every corner was a new idea and a possible way to increase revenue or usage.
I had a solid leadership team who would challenge me, ask me to make tough choices, and hone in on our top priority.
This was often hard for me because I felt like our capacity ought to be so much greater than what was being presented to me. “We have 45 employees. Surely we can work on more than one thing at a time!“
Our COO’s mantra was “focus creates excellence,” often before asking, “what does success look like?” Our Head of Product liked to reference a line from the Incredibles:
Now that I’m leading product for a segment of a larger organization, it’s become increasingly evident to me just how imperative it is to make hard choices and make sure that a given team knows what their #1 priority is, what success looks like, and how that connects to the broader mission.
Knowing this is important doesn’t actually make it easy, though. In product management, you are often weighing the needs and requests of multiple internal and external stakeholders. And inevitably, someone will feel short-changed and won’t agree with your decision.
Whenever possible, the more a given team can have a single north-star metric that they’re optimizing for, the easier this decision-making becomes. There won’t always be agreement. But maybe there will be understanding.
Without high-level agreement on what the most important KPIs are in an organization, ultimately, decisions around priorities will feel to many as though they are arbitrary.
So, my #1 rule of product management is that every team should know their #1 priority and why – preferably connected to one to two key KPIs.
There are times when there are many competing priorities, and you just have to deal with it. I know that is true for a few of my teams right now.
Nevertheless, this is a good reminder of why I write each week. The act of writing helps me clarify my thinking, and sometimes it instigates changing course. I am going to check in with each of my teams and see where there are opportunities to refocus.
This Week’s Quick Hits
For those that have been, what were your favorite things to do in Spain, Portugal, and the French Riviera?
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