This past week I was working through a product problem with a few other people. I knew little about the space. And the problem was a bit abstract. When we started talking I kinda felt like this guy:
Starting from scratch and with only a few data points to go on, we spent some time talking it out. After 30 minutes or so it felt like we had a starting direction. We didn’t know if it was right but we at least had a road to go down and some assumptions to test.
But then someone asked me the tough question. They asked me to explain what I had just done. To walk then through my thought process and how I came up with my assumptions. It was tough in the moment to verbalize the thought process I had gone through. The good news was I no longer felt like that dog, the bad news was I now felt Iike this:
I was able to talk through what was in my head but it definitely wasn’t in a concise manner. I’ve spent the rest of the week thinking about that question. As a PM what do you do when you first encounter a problem? And how do you explain what is going through your head?
Thinking about it more, here’s how I would summarize the process I was running through in my head. When encountering a new product problem or situation, I try to figure out:
- What’s the market? (industry, shape, size)
- Who’s the user? (demographics, what motivates them)
- What problem are we solving? (what do users want from us, what are we uniquely positioned to do)
- What are the risks? (can we deliver, what can go wrong)
- What metrics can we use to track success? (how do we know if our assumptions/solutions are connecting with our users)
Not saying this solves every problem or answers every possible question. But it does get you a solid baseline from which you can start working. Next time you are working on a product problem give it a try. It’ll take you from not knowing anything to feeling like this: