Optimistic Pessimists, Systems Overthinking & Should you try to connect product initiatives to revenue?
Are you an optimist or a pessimist? Filled with optimism or pessimism? In this slightly eye-watering quadrant, I argue that you can be any combination of those two things.
Systems Overthinking & Surviving The Feature Factory
You probably all know John Cutler, product coach and evangelist for Amplitude and frequent poster of complicated diagrams on Twitter. In a world of hot takes and context-free advice, he's notable for bucking the trend. So I had to interview him of course!
Check out the episode here, but here are a few key takeaways:
There's a lot of variety in product content out there and that's good
John can get pretty in-depth, but there's plenty of room for targeted, optimised, "just do this" takes out there. As long as they're reducing the gatekeeping around product management not increasing it.
Working in the "ideal" product way isn't the be-all and end-all
There are lots of great teams out there not working as per the books. There are also great Big Tech-style practitioners who can only thrive in certain environments and would flounder anywhere else.
We should all be thinking in systems
Systems thinking is important for product managers trying to make sense of their product or organisation. Nothing is linear, everything is composed of self-reinforcing loops. Think you're a change agent? You're part of the system too!
Product people need to be able to translate their thinking
Systems thinking or otherwise, product people can have complicated messages that could sound esoteric or theoretical to non-product folks. It's important to find a way to land your message with your target audience.
He coined the term "Feature Factory" as a joke and his thinking has evolved
Sometimes you're going to have to build a feature & it might even be the best move! Work with your CEO, not against them, when they ask for a feature & make sure you know what game you're playing.
Surviving a feature factory is possible with this 5-step plan
John has an actionable 5-step plan (containing 6 steps) which enables you to work out what you want, what your colleagues want, demonstrate the value of product practices and, if all else fails, when to leave.
The Big Tech PM trolley problem
Speaking of Big Tech, I continued my run of PM video memes with this Good Place-themed take on what would happen if a Big Tech PM ended up in some of the startups we've all worked in. It doesn't end well!
Connecting Product Initiatives to Revenue - Yay or Nay?
I kicked off a random Twitter question about how people might connect product initiatives to revenue and there were some really interesting replies.
To me, it feels incredibly difficult to draw a straight line between revenue and product initiatives, unless you charge specifically for usage of the features that come out of that initiative.
For example, let's say that a product team decides that the best way to solve a user problem is to build a calculator widget and make it available to users. If we charge a usage fee per calculation, or put a line item into the contract so they can have access to the calculator for a fee, then it's simple to attribute revenue.
If the calculator is one of many different features, and it's just included in a bunch of different packaging options (maybe the pro & the enterprise for example) then it's harder to do this. Maybe in this case you could look at the revenue generated by customers using the calculator and see if that goes up after you release it, but it's an estimate at best.
In an interview I did a few months back with author Radhika Dutt, we spoke about whether revenue can ever be part of a product's vision. She argued not, and I must say that I agree with her in principle. But it's a tricky balance because we need to generate revenue!
Many product people will argue that revenue is a byproduct of building excellent products, but that we shouldn't try to measure it. I'm open-minded about trying to measure it, but it's difficult and should never drive short-term thinking or prevent us from making big bets that take longer to pay off (but pay off big).
Sharing is caring
That's all for now - hopefully this was interesting, entertaining, or some mixture of the two. I'd love it if you could give some feedback. More importantly, please share with your product-curious friends and colleagues!
I do this stuff for fun, but if you ever want to buy me a coffee then, well, I'd love that ☕️
Until next time!