Two Effs that a Product Manager has to juggle
Updated: Aug 1, 2022
A simple definition of efficiency is “doing things right.”
Organizations are constantly looking at ways to improve efficiency to reduce costs and maximize profits.
Engineers, by training, love to build efficient systems. It’s in their DNA. (I know it’s in mine!). And, there’s nothing wrong with that.
But, what if you’re doing the wrong thing right?
As Product Managers, I’m sure most of us have been in situations where we are not ready with our research and background work, but due to pressure from Engineering to keep the team busy, we had to start the work.
Here you’re essentially trading off effectiveness for efficiency.
And, effectiveness, in simple terms, means “doing the right thing”.
isn't it As Important to Be Effective When You’re Being Efficient?
Short answer: Yes.
The role of product management is to ensure that your efficient engineering team is working on all the right things to ensure business success!
Here are some ways we recommend to balance Effectiveness and Efficiency for a Product Manager
1. Prioritize, prioritize, prioritize: When faced with multiple requests from stakeholders, product managers will have to disagree respectfully (or say “No”) many times - but, they’ve to know when and how to.
The fact is that you’ll not be able to get all requests done because priorities will change from time to time, resources will be reallocated, and it’s highly likely that funds are scarce.
But, an effective product prioritization process will help garner support from stakeholders, help your product team envision the goals clearly, and will ensure that your team only works on the right things!
And, how do you do that?
2. Focus on outcomes, not outputs: A good way to push back on too many feature requests, is to ask for more data from the stakeholder. It could be questions like:
How many users will be affected by this change?
What challenges do customers face because of this problem?
What value will it drive for the organisation if we do this vs. if we don’t do this
Answers to these will help you in prioritizing your product roadmap based on value, not on features or requests.
Once asking these simple, thought-provoking questions becomes a practice, it will make the stakeholder reflect on the request before shooting off an email the next time - saves their time and yours!
As a product manager, you’ll have to make a trade-off between value and complexity.
Customer and business value: How does your customer benefit from the feature? Will it have a positive effect on your business’ bottom-line? What is the user persona, their problems, and concerns? Figuring this out is what makes a product manager effective - doing the right things!
Complexity: This is the effort it takes for the product team to deliver the features right - keeping operational costs, skill sets, technology, and infrastructure costs under control. And, this is where efficiency comes into play - doing things right.
Whichever product prioritization framework you use should be thought of as a strategy to help your team decide what to work on next, and let them decide how best to achieve that.
3. Lead by influence: Product managers typically have no authority, but they need to drive consensus. With no formal authority on people or budget, you’d have to lead by influence, holding complex conversations with all functions (for e.g. the engineering, design, sales & marketing, operations, finance, and legal teams.)
Strategically dealing with dissent, conflicting priorities, and even the HiPPO (highest paid person’s opinion) would be an everyday affair.
In a gist, as an effective product manager you will have to evaluate the relative importance of ideas and requests, prioritize them, convince your team and stakeholders, eliminate wasteful tasks and processes, and deliver business and customer value quickly and efficiently.
Now is this Effectiveness or Efficiency?
We say, both!
As Peter Drucker very wisely said
“There is nothing so useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all.”
And it is Product Management’s role to ensure that the Engineering Team is not working efficiently on things that should not be done at all.
What are your thoughts on this?
Are there times when Efficiency is more important than Effectiveness?
Please do share your thoughts below!
If you are looking to setup an effective product management function...