Heartbroken Experience Makes A Better Product Manager
Have you ever had your heart broken? You dreamt about your future together and how happy it would be but it crashed before it happened. Your first heartbroken is the worst. You may deny it at first. “No, this cannot be happening right now. Am I dreaming?”. Then you feel angry, vulnerable, and helpless. You feel life had no more meaning, there won’t be any other man/woman who can replace them. You feel like a failure. But then you will learn to accept and move on. You can experience it a few times (though I hope not) but the more mature you are, the better you handle those griefs and the faster you move on.
Now, let’s see if you are a product manager, this is what you are typically going to do. You will dig into piles of users’ problems and try to find which users’ problems worth solving then build hypothesis to solve them. You gather inputs from all parties to get the most effective solution. You find the best solution you believe in after considering all the impact and efforts required. This part is exciting because you somehow wish your hypothesis to be true. You monitor solution performance once it is delivered and out to users. Day one, nothing. Day two, still nothing. After a week, no traction. Then you realize after a month the solution does not give any benefits to users. The needle isn’t moved.
The dream that the solution will solve users’ problems is crashed after you see the data. It’s not a good feeling. You will deny it first, try to see from any angle if the new data will show anything different. You will feel disappointed. But guess what? You’ve got to move on. You have your lessons learned so you can choose better solution next time. You get used to letting go.
This is very important because once you fall in love with the solution and do not want to let go, you’ll invest more effort in developing useless things. It may not look harmful in the beginning, but it slowly will jeopardize the products. It may start as a little improvement story in your backlogs. Then it will create bugs you need to fix. Once you ignore it, the code may become zombie codes that will eat your chore efforts alive.
As mentioned in 280group’ Product Manager Skills Benchmark report 2019, one of the skills that still “lack” in most product mangers is “End of Life (retirement) of their products”. This is to kill the products/features that do not work. I also experience the struggle to kill products/features and still learn to do that. I hope by reflecting on our experience to let go of things (or people) that are not meant to be there, we can learn to build more efficient products.
So, how does your heartbroken experience have anything to do with being a Product Manager? Well, it teaches important lessons: you’ll try to be more careful next time and you learn how to move on (and let go).