Day 142: Agree to Disagree…

Too much is unproductive, too little limits your product.

A few days back I had a (slightly) heated discussion with a stakeholder on changing the name of a field in the system. I was a little defensive at first because there were some concerns: possibly needing to migrate existing data, transiting users etc. And it was a little trivial, something that we could educate users (especially since it’s internal) instead.

Eventually he won me over, because it affected intuitiveness (somewhat subjective, I know).

What place do arguments have in Product Management? At worst, they focus on the parts that don’t matter and are a waste of time. At best, they bring out the best in a product.

I used to put a lot of pressure on myself to come up with the best solution, to the extent of being jealous of others. Self-awareness of my (and the majority of the human race’s) limitations has helped me accept that I may not have the winning ideas.

Now I try more to appreciate these discussions and arguments, so long as both parties can agree to disagree and the outcome is productive. The anchor has to be right – making decisions for the product and not for pride, choosing the battles that are worth arguing instead of trivial details.

It’s uncomfortable when your solutions or ideas are questioned. It’s also embarrassing if you realized something you were fighting for no longer makes sense when you have more information. (But hey, even Jeff Bezos said the people who are right a lot of the time, changed their mind often)

One day I hope, like Steve Jobs (preferably without the aggression) or Dave Matthews, I’ll be able to surround myself with an “A” team and bring the best out of them and the product.

With the pinpoint timing of the veteran musician that he is, Matthews paused momentarily for emphasis. “I remember the first time I heard Carter play, it changed my whole life,” Matthews, who was then working mostly as a bartender, recalled. “I thought, This is the greatest musician I’ve ever seen. How is it possible he’s playing at a club in Charlottesville, Virginia, when he should be walking on rose petals? And it was the same thing with LeRoi. I became obsessed! So it was just a matter of wanting to be around the music LeRoi and Carter were playing, and to position myself so I would have every opportunity to enjoy the music they made.

“Then, when that window of opportunity was afforded me, I asked, ‘Would you guys be interested in working on some music with me?’ And they said, ‘Yes.’ That afforded the opportunity to go the next window and I could actually stand next to these guys while they were playing. I forget on occasion, but try and remember, that I’m more than fortunate to play with them.
– excerpt from an interview with Dave Matthews

I jumped from Product Marketing to Product Management at Zalora recently. These posts represent a journal of my learnings and reflections – you can keep track of my journey by joining the mailing list here.

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