I have long maintained that the two most powerful words in a Product Manager’s arsenal are “no” and “why” — which also happen to be the two favorite words of most 3-year-olds. Before you dismiss them as overly simplistic, hear me out.
A Product Manager needs to be able to hold the line on strategy. Oftentimes an executive will request an item that wildly diverges from the current path, and he/she wants it immediately. When presented with this scenario, you have three options:
A. Ignore the request. After all, you have a backlog for a reason!
B. Fulfill the request. The exec may be the one signing your checks, and you like money, right?
C. Find a way to incorporate the request with the roadmap. It may take time, but it shows you’re listening.
Both A and C are variations on no. (You could argue that option B is a no for your integrity, but that’s another discussion for another day.) If you went with option C, then give yourself a hand. You have found a way to say no without jeopardizing your integrity or job.
Given the above scenario, you need to determine the reason the exec made the request in the first place. It could be you’re working with someone whose brain works overtime, and is always generating ideas. It could be the result of an article/discussion/brainstorm that sparked a want/need. It makes no difference. Your job is to figure out why this item makes sense. How does it support your strategy? What is the impact on budget? If you do this, will it help or harm you in the marketplace? At their root, they all map back to why.
So go ahead. Embrace your inner 3-year-old and ask “why?” repeatedly. At the end of your whys, feel free to choose your version of no, but be prepared to support your reasons and integrity.
This post also appeared on LinkedIn