Don’t remodel your house before you live in it

You’ve just taken a new product management job.  You’re excited and fired up to come in and have a big impact.  There are some obvious big opportunities and you have a strong thesis on what needs to get fixed.  Maybe you even discussed this in the interview and it’s clear everyone is feeling the same way.  It will be a big development project, but hey –  time is a wasting.  Let’s get to work, right!

Hold on there.  Take a deep breath.

It’s pretty common, sage advice that you don’t renovate your house before you live in it for a good 3 to 6 months.  I’d recommend the same thing when you take on a product management job at a new company.    Don’t start with the big ambitious project.  Start with something small in scope with clear user value.  In truth the more value the better, but it is unlikely you’ll be in the top left of this grid.  If you are you’ve got to wonder why this project wasn’t done already.

value x cost grid

And small scope is just as important, if not important than value.  Why do something so small?

  1. This allows you to get something from start to release through development.  Every company has its own process, technology and culture for launching product.  You get to learn this end to end as fast as possible.  So you are better equipped for when you take on bigger projects.
  2. You are going to learn a lot about customers and the product.  Your rate of learning in the first few months will be super steep.  Make big bets when you have more info under your belt.
  3. You start a fast track record for delivering value.  If you take on a project on the right hand side of this grid and 6 months later, nothing has launch, people are going to be questioning your ability to get stuff done.
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