The goal of a product manager is to design a roadmap that moves the product in the desired direction while showing incremental progress.
The difficult part of this scenario isn’t designing a roadmap–althought breaking down large endeavors is a full time job in itself.
The difficult part is balancing measurable progress with progress in the right direction.
The key to measurable progress is incrementalism. I don’t think I need to convince anyone that breaking down large endeavors into smaller tasks is a good thing.
But the thing about smaller tasks is that sometimes they involve introducing complexity and friction. In even other words, sometimes incrementalism means moving in the wrong direction1.
The problem with moving in the wrong direction is that roadmaps can change.
For example, removing a feature for the sake of simplicity might seem like moving backwards today. But tomorrow, the simplicity could either be a bad thing, or a business requirement could mean that that feature was critical and needs to come back.
A Product Manager’s role, then, is twofold:
- To break down features into small chunks so that measurable progress is made on a regular and frequent basis.
- To make judgement calls about the changing nature of a roadmap in relationship to the investments made today.
Each of these is difficult both for the technical work required and the social work required to convince stakeholders about the merits of decisions.
- By “wrong direction”, I really just mean “what seems like the wrong direction”.