Karthik Srinivasan

Mark Hull's
Mark Hull
October 26, 2020
Karthik Srinivasan

Karthik Srinivasan

Product Leader, Amazon


My Product Philosophy

Product Management styles can differ from company to company, industry to industry and so on. What I will list here are things that a product manager can do irrespective of what the organization has for its process. Typically organization’s process would be the tools and methodologies. These are beyond those. In a sense, these are akin to Franklin’s virtues that I would like to follow. A lot of these could apply to any profession but I find them to be so valuable as a product manager.

  • True North: As a product manager, my true north is to obsess over what the customer of my product needs. They could be stated/unstated needs. Here, customer could mean the user or the buyer. Trade offs between a user & buyer can and will be handled. I will make it valuable & usable to them! In other words, I will not make it valuable only to me, my boss or my company. My true north is what is valuable to the customer (& which makes money for my company — that is the order) and I will strive everyday to get there.

  • The Basics: I will understand my company’s vision, its business strategy, its product strategy, its positioning vis-a-vis competitors, the segment we address and the persona so well that any decision I take will sub-consciously be influenced by those. If my company does not have any of these things articulated clearly, I will help create that articulation.

  • Think Big but Course Correct: Like anything in life, building/maintaining a product is a series of course corrections and balancing all the way. Like an airplane, which apparently is off course 99% of its journey (do not know if this is really true — but works as a metaphor). So, on an every day basis, I will do course corrections towards my True North. I will think long term and think big. I will not underestimate what I can achieve in the long term by citing short term issues. I understand that the most common path to mediocrity is “being practical”.

  • Focus Versus Flare: At any moment of the day, I will be aware of the mode of operation I should employ. I will ‘flare’ when I should (brainstorming, open ended user-research) and will ‘focus’ when I should (writing specifications, synthesizing user inputs).

  • Earn Trust First: Wherever I work, I will first fit in with the team culture and then make changes organically. I will not display any unwanted heroism. Without any manipulative tendencies, I will deploy tools like Ben Franklin effect, Robert Cialdini’s Influence & Presuasion and win over people.

  • Owner but No CEO: I will take complete ownership for my product and its outcomes (versus just the output). But I will not call myself the CEO. Every stakeholder is important. For my authority, I will strive to be so good in the product/tech/domain and be relentlessly resourceful that no one can ignore me.

  • Over Communicate: I will ensure that there is no information that is just in my brain. Everything will get documented in one place or another (depending on the context). I will err on the side of ‘over’ communicating than ‘under’ communicating. When I do, I will match up to the communication style & frequency of the person involved — their background, current position, domain knowledge and so on.

  • Learn & Be Curious: I will develop multi disciplinary knowledge by constant learning. I will remember that my goal is to find the best answer, not to give the best one I have. As I learn, I will change my opinions when evidence points that I was wrong. I will have strong views weakly held and not the other way.

  • Set High Standards: I will strive to set the highest possible standards in whatever I do — something that would positively affect others. I will paint the back of the fence too. I will be disciplined to the extent that it ‘creates’ energy, does not destroy.

  • Bias for Action: I will ‘act’ every day, even if it means very small steps towards a goal. I will not indulge in grandiose theories with nothing to show for in action. I will be on the ‘quantity’ side of the ceramic class.

  • Chase Antelopes: Both for my own time and for my product roadmap, I will ensure I chase antelopes and not field mice

I will internalize that all aspects of life have ‘Lindy’ effect. I will not get conned by the latest fads in terms of my tools & processes. I will revisit my virtues, tools and frameworks every year and throw away the ones that are not relevant anymore.