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Try to find an equilibrium among the different action lines. Don’t develop more and more new functionalities for your product in a endlessly way, but also tackle bugs, pay your technical debt and learn new ways of improving what you are doing or you will end up drown by a sea flood of incidents in production and a nightmare of slow processes to deliver which could be easily streamlined if dedicated a few hours.

Superb article by John Cutler:

The sixteenth minute item

Many teams are constantly struggling to keep a clean and focused 15 minute daily stand-up meeting, but we cannot help asking our questions to the tech lead or senior members when an issue has been bugging us for the whole day. Others just talk too much and derail the conversation on important topics.

In such cases, you just can say “Greg, let’s allow everyone to explain their hurdles and complete the daily stand-up. We can save that for the sixteenth minute item”. After everyone talked about their impediments, we open the discussion and let them propose any matter they wanted to talk about. Make sure everyone is free to leave if the theme to be discussed is too specific to the work of other colleagues.

Bystander effect

The Bystander effect or Bystander apathy is a well known social psychological theory that indicates that people are less likely to intervene in a crime or in a crisis if there are more witnesses of the crime. All of them seem to be thinking: “Someone else will call the police, for sure”, but nobody does.

This also applies to product management. When we trust only in documentation and processes, we all think someone else is having a look and will take charge of the hurdle, but nobody does. Meanwhile the issue grows endlessly. Focus should be on our product and not in the process (better if we got one, but it is not our main goal).

Tasks should always have someone assigned who will feel in charge of their delivery and have a clear deadline to avoid the blurring of the responsibility. Besides that, the Product Owner or Product Manager will be concerned of any difficulty we might be facing. The product is their ultimate duty.

We don’t know what we want

Mercedes Benz made some surveys among their potential customers and they said they wanted smaller cars with less gas consumption per mile. They created the Smart. Meanwhile, cities were crowded with 4×4 vehicles as big as an airplane.

You don’t know what people want. They don’t know it either. You think you know but you don’t have a clue (me neither). Choose a reasonable option, test it, fail soon and fail cheaply. Learn from it and try a different thing. Keep as many options open as a small budget allows you.

But above all, avoid the Sunk Cost fallacy and insisting on a failure as “market wasn’t ready”. Nobody likes admitting they were totally wrong, but there won’t be more opportunities if you sink with the ship (or the department, the project, the product).

Illusion of Control

You have been working in chronograms, Gantt diagrams, risks and resource management, more graphics specifying who reports to whom, dreamed plans, and the name of the people who should be blamed in case of not meeting a deadline. You are probably thinking everything is under control, but nobody reads those documents, skimming them at best. 

When you see paperwork like that one, you might be thinking “What a great project manager I am. Every single detail has been captured”, but it might be only an Illusion of Control. What are you doing to help the team to be more productive? How do you plan to overcome Parkinson or Hofstadter’s laws? Other than getting everyone nervous when a deadline is getting closer, have you helped them to remove obstacles? Are you sure the team is delivering value? Ticking a checkbox for every completed task is not getting you any closer to the objectives if the outcome is faulty or doesn’t provide any utility.

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