A series on “Speed for Product Managers”

Photo by Indira Tjokorda on Unsplash

A few months back I had started dabbling with what influences the quality of outcomes from product managers. I narrowed it down to two key factors :

Strength of Assumptions * Strength of Execution = Quality of Outcomes

You can read more about it here. There’s much more to be written around assumptions, validation and product strategy. But I realized i had dropped the ball on articulating anything about strength of execution. One OKR for execution is speed — the pace at which you enable your teams to ship new features. I’ll try to write my thoughts on speed over the next few weeks.

It’s surprising how speed remains an under-written subject for PMs. It is usually correlated with engineering. My take is that a PM is crucially equally responsible for speed, as much as their engineering counterparts. Even though it is not as critical as identifying the correct customer value levers, it does become a differentiator for product companies over time.

  1. Speed is a competitive advantage. Great ideas as well as thorny product problems are an endless list. Your ability to tear through them improves with the quality of your product rapidly. How fast your teams ship versus products around you contributes to a competitive advantage over time.
  2. Speed has inertia. Inertia goes both ways, high pace teams continue shipping rapidly, building momentum, improving processes and reducing slack. Slower teams need much higher energy over time to get into a rhythm of shipping.
  3. Speed can influence. It spreads in and across your teams very fast. High pace PMs and teams inspire others and generate a sense of urgency for every one around them. Slower shipping on the other hand impacts not just other engineering teams, but every other team that relies on product for growth.
  4. Resources are finite, expensive and usually scarce. PMs need to be accountable that resources are leveraged towards the most critical outcomes, in the most efficient way possible. Watching dev teams spin their wheels waiting for clarity/direction is painful, and is a trait that destroys team productivity+morale very rapidly.

What will I focus on?

Speed for PMs boils down to two key levers :

  1. Execution clarity
  2. Team mechanics.

These two have helped me and my team consistently ship value at high yet predictable speeds.

This series of posts are not going to include anything helpful about crafting your product strategy, identifying customer value, validation of your assumptions etc. In short nothing about “building the right thing” i.e nothing to do with the direction aspect of your product.

These are a few things I will be writing about over the next few weeks:

I) Clarity in Execution : Are you helping your teams reduce unknown complexities in your execution path? Do you consistently control execution fidelity over time? Is your team focussed on the most critical center of gravities?

II) Team Mechanics : Are you creating efficient goal gradients with incremental shipping? Have you designed communication channels and flow of information for rapid course correction? Do you shield your team from distractions?

Watch this space. Follow me to get notified when these come out.

I love drawing connections from different subjects in a hope to simplify the world of product management. https://www.linkedin.com/in/adityarsmishra/