Agile · Communication · Design · Effectiveness · Features · Planning · Problems · Product management · Prototypes

Solve problems, don’t build features

I came across a great piece from the folks at Intercom that I wanted to share. Here’s the link: Great-product-managers-dont-spend-time-on-solutions

The article examines the core activities or stages involved in product development and asks where the most effective place is for a product manager to focus. It is often easier – and quite tempting – to focus on designing and building a solution (especially when there is pressure from internal stakeholders to ‘show results’ quickly); however, the best teams invest heavily in defining and prioritizing problems before working on crafting a solution. Once a problem is well understood and the value of solving that problem is clearly articulated, the process of iterative design-deliver-refine becomes much clearer.  The author (Paul Adams) makes the following observation about the way teams work at Intercom:

We obsess about problem prioritisation and problem definition. I mean obsess. I drive our people crazy sometimes interrogating whether we really truly deeply understand the problem we’re attempting to solve… [W]hy do we do this? We do it because a solution can only be as good as your understanding of the problem you’re addressing.

In my current firm we wrestle with sometimes getting hung up in ‘analysis paralysis’ where we spend too much time and effort discussing problem definitions and potential design solutions. I’m also aware of my own bias toward quickly beginning the solution development process and assuming we can iterate and tweak as we go along. I know it is valuable to have a deep understanding of the problem we want to solve before we just ‘start working’ – in fact there is a lot of work to be done in truly understanding the problem in the first place. I appreciated Paul’s insights on the right way to approach product development and want to find ways to continue encouraging my team to dig deep to understand market problems before we start trying to solve them. Balance is key here because of course in truth it’s not that simple.

I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences so please comment below or reach out on Twitter (@asbiv). Thanks.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s