What you do is never enough ... and that's fine

What you do is never enough ... and that's fine

By the end of this week:

  • The CTO wants to address a long standing tech debt.
  • The Sales Manager wants a new feature.
  • The Finance Team need an improvement to the accounting process

They will all take approximately five days to introduce, so someone is going to get disappointed.  

As a product manager you spend your time serving the needs of many other people. Whether it is getting direction from the CPO, consulting with the business, or understanding the needs of the customer. 

The problem with having this many masters is that whatever you do, you will always manage to disappoint someone whatever you do. The question is, how do you handle this disappointment?

For me, the trick is to not to get too personally involved in the decision, as I can only do so much.  Instead, I focus attention on what is going to deliver the biggest benefit to the organization? 

When we say benefit, this could be the value of increased sales, it could be the reduction in cost, or the improvement in efficiency.  

Whatever it is, once you've got an independent value, that isn't caught up in the 'who shouts the loudest' competition that often happens when there are multiple masters pushing for their own change, then you're able to counter with the data.

  • The tech debt will save us $1,000 a month.
  • The new feature will attract approximately 10 new clients, each paying $50 a month.
  • The new accounting improvement will save 10 hours of time a month, which has an hourly cost of $40 an hour.

Now do the sums and let people know which bit of work is being done this week, and move on.

Yes, two people won't be happy, but that's fine.  They might get their work done next week.  Or the week after.

Of course, it's often not as straightforward as that, because sometimes we have things that have to be done regardless of the potential return (such as compliance work), sometimes the politics involved requires some work to be pushed up the list (such as when a partner organization wants your help on something, and in return they'll help you down the line), and sometimes the boss just says "get this done".

However in all of those cases you'll have a valid reason to use with all the stakeholders that you're going to disappointment.  Sometimes, it just is what it is, and you can't sweat it.

The mantra we can recite to ourselves is 

"Although what we do will never be good enough, we should accept to do what is needed."