The Biggest Challenge With Building Products is Uncertainty

I was recently asked to share my views on three questions around product management for the UsabilityTools blog. My answers are now published along with thoughts from 46 other product managers and I thought I’d share my response here as well.

The questions were good ones and were worth thinking about. In general, I’ve found that building new things is all about creating clarity and alignment and dealing with the uncertainty.

What is the most important quality a good product manager should have?

The ability to think across disciplines and both understand and communicate needs + priorities between business, technology, design, research, users and other stakeholders.

What was (or is) the biggest challenge you were facing and what you have learned from it?

The ultimate challenge of building products is that it is hard to know what will work. You can have an incredibly well engineered, beautiful, and user centered product and it can still fail. Running a good process is how you steady a team’s morale – keeping it up when things don’t work, and not getting cocky when it succeeds wildly.

How do you measure the effectiveness of your and your team’s work?

The most important measure of productivity is time my team spends working in alignment, with a clear understanding of expectation and goals, on efforts they believe will have major positive impact.

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Jason Shen

Jason is a tech entrepreneur and advocate for Asian American men. He's written extensively and spoken all over the world about how individuals and organizations develop their competitive advantage. Follow him at @jasonshen.

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  1. “You can have an incredibly well engineered, beautiful, and user centered product and it can still fail.”

    This hard truth remains difficult for people (including myself) to fully grok because it runs counter to the intuitive idea that more work always equals more progress. In a larger corporate setting there are other wins (salary bumps, career progression, resume bullets) that lessen the pain of a failed product, but on the front lines of an entrepreneurial situation, it can bruise mightily.

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