Fred Wilson’s post on saying no reminded me of my own intent to write about saying no in my world of developing big scale online dating and social media applications.
In many ways, my job–leading the product development/product management team–is like being the executive chef in a big kitchen–it’s my responsibility not only to determine what we will release, but the best order and sequence of what we will do–and where the resources will be applied.
My top-line criteria are clear:
- Make the product support both the customer experience/value and the business needs
- Choose the projects that offer the biggest impact for the level of effort
- Balance short term initiatives with smaller, more focused pay-off, with longer, investment/development projects
But if I’m clear on all that, why do I spend some much of my time saying No? Often, I say No because
- The project isn’t something we have the resources to do right now–and it’s not worth prioritizing over something else
- It’s a nice to have, not a must have
- The level of effort and the return don’t line up enough
- It’s distracting from our core business objectives–for the year or the quarter
- It’s overbuilding–we think it’s neat, but customers won’t notice
- It’s too bleeding edge (this is a subset of overbuilding)–we love the idea but the novelty outweighs the business impact
And what kind of projects, you ask, get the Nos? (Well, this is the place where it hurts.)
- Pet projects that are very Web 2.0 but either won’t drive the business
- Projects we can wait a quarter or more to execute
- Copy’ems–we think we need something cause a competitor has it (in that road lies madness–and waste)
- Wrong scale–too big or too small for the moment (we try to right size these, then do them)
As someone who spent a lot of her career being the cutting-edge, push the mass market troublemaker, having a job being the one who says No, is an interesting experience–but it is also incredibly cool.
Working with a team of smart people who are passionate about the customer experience, the product AND the business objectives is tremendously fun–and sometimes, completely harrowing.
I’ve learned that No can cover a myriad of things:
- We’re not going to do this right now.
- We won’t do this ever, not on my watch.
- This isn’t ready to be executed.
- You need to think this through more.
- What are you, nuts?
- Oh geeze, I wish we could do this..but we’re not going to, not now.
Yep, I say No a lot more than I used to–but it makes it feel so good when I get to say yes.