We couldn’t let them know something wasn’t quite ready!

Each week I share what I learn about the people side of product management to help leaders at work and at home go from unsure to unstoppable.

What I’ve been learning

We need to use Progressive Discovery more often for handling the unknown.

When you aren’t quite sure what the right answer is (which is more and more common in work today), ask yourself the question, “How can I figure out the next right thing?”

I recently had a conversation with someone managing a large change with the way their company interfaces with clients. The changes will have impacts to the business on the order of hundreds of millions. I invited them to think about how they could test the changes before making a massive, risky rollout. They responded that “Our clients are too important to test something out with. We couldn’t let them know something wasn’t quite ready! When we make the change, we have to make sure it works!”

I responded that if that’s the case, that they can’t risk not having something work when they launch, then more than ever they need to figure out how to test smaller pieces before unveiling everything.

We then had a fruitful conversation about how to test in a way that doesn’t jeopardize current relationships (topic for a future email).

The tendency to clutch things tightly, not share the journey, and hold your breath when you launch isn’t helpful when it comes to solving new problems.

My point today: test before you leap.

As Warren Buffet warns:

"Don't test the depth of a river with both feet."

Manu Kumar, founder of K9 Ventures, posted a fantastic thread on Twitter about how this very behavior should work when building companies.

I invite you to consider these questions about how you can test something out:

  • How can we mimic reality to see if this will work?

  • What would be the first indication that this is working?

  • What’s the biggest pain point we can start with?

  • Can we start smaller?

  • What’s our most pressing constraint?

  • What can we fake before we build, to gage reaction first?

  • Can we try one before we have to do them all?

  • If we can’t test on real customers, can we role-play or test internally first? Dry-run?

When you need to have an impact fast and/or when the stakes are high, figure out a way to prototype and test.


What I published

An update to my personal website

8 Lessons Product Managers Need to Learn From Clayton Christensen (also featured as the lead story in hackernoon) // “Successful senior executives need to spend a lot of time articulating clear, consistent priorities that are broadly understood throughout the organization."

Clayton’s Greatest Lessons: Strategy (a LinkedIn Carousel format I’m experimenting with, early reactions are very positive) // Strategy doesn't have to be a buzz-word. Clayton Christensen clearly outlines how leaders can think about strategy. What I love most is that everything here about strategy applies not only to work but also in personal life.

Why Working Together Quickly Makes Your Team Powerful (video) // Velocity = Focused Direction + Speed


What have you been learning about?

Ryan

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