@johncutlefish's blog

I am currently writing weekly here and have all my 2020 posts here.

Dear Product Managers …

Published: December 02, 2016

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We know your job is hard, but you need to let us help you. We’ve got the chops and creativity, and want to help you, the team, the product, and our company win.

There are a couple things on our mind that we would like to discuss. We’d do this in person, but the last thing we need is another meeting.

We are curious. Is any of our hard work really paying off for our customers and business? Is it moving the needle? It might not seem like it, but we care. When we know we’re delivering results, it is a little easier to stomach releasing mediocre work, just shipping it, accumulating debt, and jumping to the next project. Without some evidence that we’re making decent decisions, those things add up. Frankly, we stop trusting you and stop caring.

Guessing is fine (we all do it). Guessing without reflecting is not fine. We’ll never learn that way. Some of us are wondering whether continuing to iterate and doing better work might deliver even better results?! Perhaps?

We need your help. The team is measured (officially or otherwise) every day: uptime, defect counts, story point velocity, test coverage, hours spent programming, acceptance criteria met, and stories and features shipped. But none of these things indicate customer outcomes. It’s the opposite, actually. Feature-bloat adds complexity, and complexity slows us down.Keeping us busy is not the goal. Delivering outcomes is the goal.

We know you are under a lot of pressure to execute. You might have done UX or development in the past, but you don’t now. You need us. Therefore, we’d appreciate it if you treat us like partners, and not the construction and assembly crew. Introduce us to actual customers. Let us contribute ideas. Let us monitor and measure progress, and change course accordingly. Give us context, and we will do good work.

Of course you don’t need to do this — we can dutifully give you estimates, and build your ideas to spec, and deliver things into the abyss — and this can keep us interested for a couple months or years, but eventually we’ll move to work somewhere else (the market is great these days). The company won’t notice for a bit (hurray velocity!) but our customers will suffer, and the business will suffer. We don’t want that, do we?

We respect your chops, instincts, perspective, and surreal ability to sit through monotonous meetings. Let’s help each other do our best work, deliver value to our customers, and build something we are all proud of.


Engineers & UX