3 traits to being an effective PM
Updated: Aug 8, 2022
Not only can PMs start out from various places like design, software, other engineering like myself, sales, etc but can also end up at various places as well like BigTech, Agency, Startup, etc. So the mindset, focus and skillsets they bring as a result can be quite different.
I've pitched this idea of continuous improvement that I call a "5 to 9 PM". Here are 3 traits that I've seen good PMs continuously improving on.
Without it what could go wrong: A founder on the heels of success at BigCo feels invincible, starts a company, is under the illusion they're in control even in the face of high churn, and too inflexible to abandon an expensive and premature marketing strategy ultimately sinking the company (eg: Quibi).
Laws, fallacies and biases at play:
Knuth’s Law: Premature optimization is the root of all evil.
Illusion of control: A tendency for people to overestimate their ability to control events.
"Everyone's got a plan until they get punched in the face"- Tyson
Sunk cost fallacy: A tendency for people to be reluctant to abandon a strategy because they have invested heavily in it.
Tactics to control for this:
skateboard → scooter → bike → car.
Practice being a "5 to 9 PM" with best-in-class products, PMs and devs
Avoid crummy products. Study how the best products were built and taken to market. Overlap various data sources: founder interviews for growth tidbits, LinkedIn Insights for employee growth, Archive.org for product and product marketing growth, etc. Put together a composite view like this one on Hopin.
PMs: Create a twitter list and keep a pulse on insights from other PMs
Devs: Follow YouTubers who help you answer questions like "is RTMP a TCP based protocol"
Philosophy: High agency.
Without it what could go wrong: This one's easy, nothing ships, or as the picture above shows, nothing rafts.
Tactics to control for it:
Check into ProductHunt regularly and click into the top product of the day
Without it what could go wrong: You call on a few successful and busy friends (probably CEOs, probably at large companies) who give you 10 minutes of their time. You ask them what keeps them up at night. They tell you what's probably the first thing on their minds and you take that back to the team. They of course take 10x the time trying to build to this expansive requirement. In the meantime, your busy friends are... well.. busy. Not only have you lost runway, you've eroded team trust.
Laws, fallacies and biases at play:
Hofstader’s law: It always takes longer than you expect, even when you take into account Hofstadter's Law
Availability bias: to think that examples of things that come readily to mind are more representative than is actually the case
Survivorship bias: to view the performance of the survivors as a comprehensive sample without regarding those that went bust
Curse of brilliance: the tendency for someone to attribute incorrect cause to an effect because the real cause was something they brilliantly navigated
Halo effect: when one trait of a person is used to make an overall judgment. The HiPPO effect (Highest Paid Person's Opinion) is a specific example.
Setting direction: People lie without even realizing. Controlling for these biases when talking to users is critical. Going back to the team with reliable information is crucial. It helps all the way from building useful features to team trust and morale.
Setting up guardrails: Only as much process as necessary, as little as possible to keep the team aligned, get their input on things you may have missed, and keep the customer happy.
Model it out: There's a close link between product, pricing, customer buying habits, and the team one needs as a result to get it into user's hands.