Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Product Management: Take position, admit wrong

I am often wrong, but never in doubt
- Ivy Baker Priest
One lesson I learned from doing product management is self confidence.  You have to be sure of what you are doing.  Take all the data that you can get and analyze the problem.  But once you made your mind, don't change it because you felt you had a wrong answer.  Unless you find a new piece of information that contradicts your theory, stick to your answer.  And if your decision turned out to be wrong, admit your mistake.  Learn from it.  Then move on.

What you don't want to do is vacillate or let someone else make the decision for you.  If you have the power to make the decision and you feel it's important one, don't let someone make that decision for you.  Make it yourself.

Don't be perceived as someone without opinion.
Form your decision based on facts, and stick to that decision.
Of course, make sure you have all the facts straight, like whether WMD really exists...

Here's why.

Making a decision and sticking to it take self-confidence.  Confidence in yourself that you'll make the right decision based on information at hand.  Use your guts, use your intellect.  Trust yourself that you'll make the right decision.  If you don't have the trust in you, no one will trust you.  Once you lose that trust, you have just lost the most important tool to influence others as product manager.  Be confident that you'll make the right call.

Inability to make a decision also tells you that you are not going to take responsibility.  Take the responsibility and make the call.  Own the decision.  If it turned out to be wrong, admit the wrong.  That's the only way you can really learn.  Learn from your own mistakes, internalize them, understand why you were wrong, and make a commitment not to fall prey to the same trap.  People will see that and respect you as a leader.  Being a leader is not about making the right decision all the time.  It's about being larger than oneself to admit when you made an mistake.  Because it's not about you, it's about the team and collective goal.  Make sure people see that you put yourself after that.

I see many temptations not to make a decision.  Avoiding decision, delegating the key decisions to someone else hoping that they make the right call, coming up with a decision to please customer rather than choosing to do the right thing and taking the heat, all of these are failure to make the calls.  All of these are ultimately from not trusting your own ability to make the right decisions.

Don't fall for that trap.  It will make you less effective product manager.

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