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How a Framework Can Kill Productivity

Product
Impact
Productivity
New PM

23 April, 2021

Thomas Trinelle
Thomas Trinelle

Head of Product at Gorgias

Thomas Trinelle, Senior Product Manager at Gorgias, discusses how a framework shouldn’t define one’s approach to a problem and how he is encouraging intuitive decision-making in PMs.

Problem

A role of a PM is a fairly ambiguous one, dependent and varying on the company, its management structure, the industry, etc. That makes interviewing for a PM role particularly challenging since one should assess skills and traits in prospective candidates that often fall under the realm of subjectivity.

At the same time, one of the traps many candidates fall into is to repeat the generic lines about product management procured mainly through Medium articles. When interviewing for a PM role, I am more interested in their gut feelings than their textbook recitation. I would rather have someone describe a user story or their experience with a customer or product in a vivid, compelling way as opposed to hearing someone explain how a user story should be done, according to a mediocre Medium article. While I am certain I could with much ease teach someone how to do a user story, I don’t think I could teach people empathy and curiosity.

Actions taken

I believe that we are missing the mark during the interviews by not focusing on fundamental skills like listening, portraying, or contextualizing. Instead, we try to assess if a candidate is well-versed in some framework, such as a funnel breakdown analysis or else. Being familiar with a framework is merely a prerequisite, but the framework itself would not make a decision.

During the interviews, I would try to assess candidates’ capabilities beyond being familiar with a certain framework. I would ask them to do data analysis using funnel analysis and simple statistics with a bar chart. Based on that analysis, they should decide which two features they should build first. One would elaborate on building a priority matrix and choosing a feature based on that framework. The other would first try to establish if they would have enough data and explain how choosing different frameworks could lead to different decisions. Finally, the second candidate would set with one approach explaining that their intuition guided them toward that solution. That would be enough for me to pick the second candidate without any afterthought.

Also, I would ask them how they would go about collecting user input for this feature. One would deliver the textbook answers, while the other would list all the approaches of collecting user input, but then provide arguments for going with the approach they “feel” strongly about. For example, if a tool is feature-heavy in terms of user experience, they would want to see customers interact with the tool and thus choose a qualitative interview. More specifically, if I need them to collect feedback on a GPS tool, I would want them to sit in a car with a driver, see them use the tool, talk to the driver, see what they see, and feel what they feel. I don’t need a survey or a formal interview; I need someone with empathy and insightfulness.

Lessons learned

  • Trust your guts, but not without making an effort to be informed. You should be familiar with frameworks, consult them, but then decide for yourself which will work the best. Do you feel that you have all the information needed to make the right decision? Do you feel comfortable enough to call the shots? If yes, do it. There will always be room for uncertainty, but the question is whether you feel confident to move ahead.
  • Frameworks are steps to be followed, not recipes that make things work. They are general ideas or non-compulsory guides that you can choose to apply. There are many frameworks PMs could apply, which often gets them entangled in endless theoretical considerations and stops them from moving forward.
  • The mind of a PM should not follow a linear process. It is more like entering a spacious library with many shelves all packed with books. Instead of reaching out to a book A on a shelf B and getting stuck there, reach out to books on other selves too. Maybe today, your go-to will be a blue book, and tomorrow red; you don’t need to always go with the same approach.
  • Product management praises itself for being objective. But when it comes to collecting user feedback, the subtlety that subjectivity brings into product management is critical; it is not about pushing for your own choice but knowing when to take a step back from frameworks.

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