I wrote down my product philosophy the first time 7 years ago. It enunciated why I come to work, and what I do to achieve the ‘why’. I shared it by email with my team and my managers, and I invited them to imbibe and apply whatever they think is useful therein. What follows is excerpts from that email.
Is there a reason that governs, and weaves through, all the activities that we do in our jobs and as a team? What do we work for?
Every motivation is likely to sustain when it crosses over from the realm of the unconscious to the conscious, from the tacit to the explicit. The act of de-constructing it into words allows us to define it and share it. This is especially true when it comes to teams – it helps if all members of the team are aware of what motivates and drives them, and better still, to discover common motivations.
So I am writing below a mission statement that you will recognize to be centric to the many practices I apply at work, and have applied as a team.
To create a world class product that addresses the expressed and latent requirements of our users, and delights them in a manner that earns us not just the highest market share, but also the respect of the industry and pride in our work.
Now, every word here is written consciously with the intention to be relate-able and actionable, and not because it sounds impressive.
– Notice the mention of ‘expressed needs’ and ‘latent needs’: that’s because we are here to create not only what the customers say they want, but to do all that customers can benefit from (even if they didn’t ask for it).
– Notice the use of the word ‘delights’: it is important that we make our product interesting and convenient to use, and not let it be something merely functionally sufficient.
– Notice the phrase ‘highest market share’: it is because market share is the best, most quantifiable evidence of having created, and effectively marketed, a product that solves a real problem for the maximum number of people.
– Notice the use of ‘respect of the industry’: market share is not enough, we want to do work and create impact that earns the respect of our peers and competitors as well.
– Notice the phrase ‘pride in our work’: we want our work, and the way we do it, to meet our own personal standards of excellence and also build pride towards our team mates
This can remain a mere ‘motherhood statement’ unless we specify behaviors that guide our work ethic to achieve this. So here are 10 practices that I have learned and seen that bring out the best in individuals and teams (you may notice that there is nothing here that you and I haven’t already put into practice, even if quietly, and benefited from):
1. Create what people find useful, not merely impressive. A product must solve a real problem.
2. Always search for, and apply, the best ideas regardless of who they come from. You can’t think of everything, so involve every brain in the game.
3. Wrong often, never in doubt. Be Decisive.
4. Maintain transparency in product development and management – all stakeholders should be privy to the same information.
5. Share and mentor relentlessly. Work towards making your role redundant.
6. Acting on a simple solution is more productive than articulating problems at length. So don’t over-brain things to the point of inaction.
7. Textual and visual communication is as important and integral to a Product as are its algorithms and functionalities.
8. Be rigorous with numbers. It’s the only language a product and a business talks to you in, so interpret it correctly and precisely. Data is not Information. Computers can output data, but people, using manual-work and imagination, output Information.
9. Set deadlines, even if you don’t always meet them. You will always get more done that way.
10. Take ownership. Take Accountability. Take Pride.
None of these words and phrases are more important than the other. They are all equally significant. When we put them all into practice in synergy we move towards making our product, and ourselves, world class.
This mission statement, these practices and beliefs together are my Product Philosophy that I have used to guide the teams I have led and influence the stakeholders I have managed.