Improving product roadmaps, and a framework for becoming a better manager
Oh, and I guess we also have to talk about Twitter
Hey everyone, I’m back for the first time in months, so if you have no idea what this is or how it landed in your inbox, I understand! But since we’re all ditching Twitter this week (see you back there next week when this all blows over!) I thought I should probably make another attempt at resurrecting the newsletter. I also rewrote the About Page if you need a refresher of what this thing is about (or hopefully going to be about).
I’m really going to try to send this out more regularly, so for today, let’s start with a bit of a link roundup…
Fine, I guess we have to talk about Twitter
The takes are hot, and I’m sure you’re already tired of reading about it, but I do want to highlight two pieces that I think are very much worth your time. You’ve highly likely seen the first one, Nilay Patel’s Welcome to hell, Elon, which I’m pretty confident will become a classic of internet writing that we still talk about a decade from now, similar to Paul Ford’s WWIC and Merlin Mann’s Cranking.
If you haven’t read Nilay’s piece, please do so, because it gets to the heart of the matter:
I say this with utter confidence because the problems with Twitter are not engineering problems. They are political problems. Twitter, the company, makes very little interesting technology; the tech stack is not the valuable asset. The asset is the user base: hopelessly addicted politicians, reporters, celebrities, and other people who should know better but keep posting anyway. […]
The problem when the asset is people is that people are intensely complicated, and trying to regulate how people behave is historically a miserable experience, especially when that authority is vested in a single powerful individual.
This topic is taken further brilliantly by Clive Thompson in his piece Running Twitter Isn’t Rocket Science. It’s Harder:
But the thing is, the physics and science governing a rocket landing may be crazily complex — but they’re ultimately predictable. If you get enough data you can eventually model and predict them well enough to land the dang things. The goal is to understand the system so well you’re no longer surprised by things. You can do that with many physical systems.
But grappling with the behavior of 400 million Twitter users? Hoo boy.
Ultimately these takes could all be wrong, and the $8/month subscription could be a huge success? Who knows. Stranger things have happened. But it sure is interesting to see it all play out.
Product and leadership reading
I wanted to highlight a few product and leadership-related articles I found helpful recently.
First, I’ve been digging into different viewpoints on roadmapping quite a bit, and Itamar Gilad’s Your Roadmap Isn’t Really a Road Map is really good. He first goes into the issues with timeline-based roadmaps:
We believe that following the roadmap will move us towards our goals, but these goals are not clearly stated or even well understood. Different people may have different goals in mind, and consequently push for completely different ideas. This is why roadmap-building is so hard. It’s like planning a four-day road trip in Europe where the Marketing team wants to go to a big conference in Paris, the Sales team wants to visit an important customer in Prague, and the engineering team wants to stop over in Munich to overhaul the engine of the car. In this void of goals, executing the roadmap becomes the goal, which often creates the wrong incentives. The product org is judged on its ability to deliver bits rather than business results. We celebrate launches that lead to no improvement. Doing becomes more important than achieving.
He then moves on to walk through a different approach of goal-based roadmaps. We are in the process of adding Jenna Bastow’s Now/Next/Later views to our current roadmap, and so far I am finding it really useful. It’s in that sweet spot of avoiding the perils of timeline-based roadmaps, while also giving the broader organization all the information they need.
I really enjoyed this Interview with Badrul Farooqi, first PM at Figma. So many helpful advice here, but I’ll pull out just this one on working with the rest of the org:
Product Managers were not authoritarians. We were on the same sphere as engineers and designers. The culture at Figma facilitates the best ideas to emerge, rather than ensuring that Product Managers have some kind of overt authority. That's what works – I give feedback on design and they give me feedback on my product plan. If they felt it was important to give me feedback, then I should take it seriously.
Josephine Conneely asks Why are there so many bad managers? She walks through “7 components which impact a manager’s overall effectiveness and also how effective a manager they will be for a particular individual.” Very insightful.
Desert blues at its best
I am a huge fan of Desert Blues like Elwan by Tinariwen and Afrique Victime by Mdou Moctar. But my all-time favorite Desert Blues artist is Ali Farka Touré (start with his self-titled album). Ali’s son Vieux Farka Touré followed in his father’s footsteps and put out a great album this year called Les Racines. But that’s all just pre-amble to my actual recommendation.
Khruangbin is one of my favorite bands (start with Con Todo El Mundo). A few weeks ago they released a collaboration album with Vieux Farka Touré simply called Ali. It is an album where Vieux covers and reimagines some of his father’s songs, and it is one of my favorite releases of the year so far. Highly recommended.
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That should do it for today. Have a wonderful week, friends.