Every day a product manager has to make the hard, mission-driven decisions that keep a product steering toward its North Star. That means being able to say no, make fine adjustments, and know when to pivot. What are some techniques to help recognize and call out needed changes while keeping a product lifecycle balanced? In this session, Indeed Fmr Product Director Matthew Bostwick shares ways that product leaders can both stay true to a mission objective, and balance the product tradeoffs that occur along the way.
This video comes from our Speaker Series, a weekly virtual event that brings in the top minds that are driving digital acceleration today. Check out our Events page here to join the product conversation, watch the entire presentation above, and read through the session highlights below.
On the product career journey
Opening the event, Matthew shares a bit about his history serving as former Product Director at Indeed.com, along with his current role as VP of Product Development at Aunt Bertha. In reference to his own product career journey, Matthew states:
“For many of us, we kind of figure out the job on the fly. I personally found myself growing from one PM – the only PM on our employer team, or just four – to building employer products and moving into a Product Director role. Then, working with over 200 people in Austin, Seattle, and Tokyo, to build products to use globally by employers to help find their next hire. In 2019, Indeed reached 10,000 employees and I found myself with another opportunity to join another mission-driven company.”
For readers looking to refine their own product career journey, we invite you to check out our Product Career Ebook Series, found here.
On clearly setting the mission before making product tradeoffs
“In order to make a trade off, you first have to know what you’re trying to accomplish.”
Using a fictional mission-driven business as a story vehicle, Matthew shares insights on where product leaders need to start before even beginning to make a product tradeoff.
“To help myself and my teams make tradeoff decisions, it’s really important that we set the ground rules up front. By ground rules, I mean the goals of our company, the goals of our teams, and the general “What if” decision tree we want our teams to follow.”
“Without clearly defined goals, your teams will be lacking the scaffolding to scale and to have impact. You’ll be directing a lot more energy towards communication instead of execution. Clear goals will help give teams ownership and autonomy and allow them to do their part in achieving permission.”
On frameworks for product tradeoffs
It’s no secret that product managers love a good framework, and for good reason. Frameworks provide structure and clear visibility into problems and can reveal actionable steps to execute upon moving forward. Matthew shares his product tradeoff matrix and frameworks to aid product leaders in approaching decisions that have impact.
“When I think of a decision that a product manager has to make that might involve a trade-off, I generally think of them in three buckets. First, what problem should we solve? Second, how should we build it? And third, how do we make a decision after it’s built?”
“Imagine a grid of all the possible outcomes of everything we could want to work on. If we have our goals, we should be thinking about our ideas with those goals in mind.”
“The goal is to identify the problems to solve…staying away from cool ideas that won’t meaningfully impact your business and staying focused on your value-add and business drivers. To place your initiatives on the grid, you’ll first need to understand your business levers, and what a product change might actually do to those metrics.”
Watch the entire video above to catch Matthew’s visual aids and learn more about the product tradeoff matrix.
On brainstorming and business impacts
When a decision cross-road approaches, it can be tempting to include every possible idea on the matrix. Matthew provides guidelines on how product managers should go about brainstorming ideas when facing product tradeoffs.
“As a PM, you’re the owner of your business drivers. When you come up with an idea, focus on modeling what that change you made to your product might do to your business goals.”
“As you’re coming up with ideas, things you might want to work on, there are some rules before you can place them on this grid. First, they should be simple ideas. They need to be able to be estimated both in terms of impact and effort, they aren’t a stretch to directly impact the goal, and the team needs to be capable of executing on the idea in a reasonable amount of time.”
“Second, the team should be able to control them. They should be realistic; no 100% conversion rates. You don’t need the stars to align – you need to move a metric you own that matters. Finally, success needs to be defined ahead of time.”
About the speaker
Matthew Bostwick serves as the VP of Product Development for Aunt Bertha, a social care network focused on connecting people in need with services that can help them. He started his product management career at Indeed where he built products to help seekers apply to jobs and help small businesses find talent. He has been growing and scaling mission-driven products and organizations for the last 10 years.