Product Management: “Squeaky Wheel Syndrome”
SpotHero Product Lead on Simplifying Product Management (Part 3)
Throughout your product management career, one of the biggest challenges you’ll face is managing expectations. In other words, we’re all expected to say “yes” to every request that comes from any number of people. For example, you’re going to get requests from people who need something yesterday. Usually, you’ll hear “because it’s high priority” any time a new request comes through.
In any given workday, someone will probably ask about a promo code for an upcoming launch. Usually, these requests come out of nowhere and the timeline requirements are super tight. On the other hand, you’ll get an email from an investor who reports a bug and says that it needs to be solved as soon as possible. And in the midst of all these timely requests, your manager will ask for a three-year development plan.
Simply put, your co-workers and key partners can’t do their jobs unless product management is delivering. As a result, you’re on the frontlines for keeping a lot of people happy. I like to refer to this conundrum as the “squeaky wheel” syndrome. In other words, it’s the perpetual need for product managers to always say yes. In reality, we have to manage expectations and get into the habit of saying no.
That said, there are limitations to the ways in which you can say no.
For example, if your top investor brings something to your attention – you may have to drop everything. However, it’s critical for product management teams to set expectations for your team’s primary goals. As a result, your constituents will have a clear understanding of your team’s priorities. Ultimately, they will understand why every problem can’t be solved right away.
Said differently, your organization needs to have empathy for your product management strategy and overall goals. However, this is not to suggest that you come up with ways for people to “feel sorry” for your expected responsibilities. Instead, it’s a matter of delivering a clear roadmap for your priorities so they understand why you have to stay on target.
In summary, this will ensure that your most reliant groups are aware of trade-offs that would come with “dropping everything” for one bug fix. Getting back to the investor example, you need to illustrate how certain bugs that may affect them are in fact isolated instances that have nothing to do with overall product performance.
Ultimately, people expect product managers to say “yes” to everything. In the end, your constituents need to start saying “yes” to your product management team’s overall strategy to ensure that you never lose sight of the bigger picture.