Plato Elevate Winter Summit has been announced (Dec 7th-8th)

🔥

Back to resources

Solving the Right Problems

Product
Collaboration
Convincing
Ownership

29 November, 2020

Ido Cohen

Ido Cohen

Head of Product at Permutive

Ido Cohen, Head of Product at Permutive, discusses the importance of solving the right problems and how failing to identify them can lead to misuse of resources and lost opportunities.

Problem

Startups don’t typically have a long runway and are pressured to generate profit quickly. They often try to solve and get easily excited about too many things. This often leads them astray. Failing to focus on solving the right problems they misuse already scarce resources and lost sparse opportunities. If you are a startup of only three people you will have to choose and solve only a small number of problems, so make sure that those would bring the highest value.

Solving the right problems can be summarized as the ability to grasp the entirety of the problem space, dissect all the existing -- and emerging -- problems, and decide what problems need to be solved as you put the rest aside.

Actions taken

Fly on a wall
The first action would be not to take any action. Instead, I would be behaving as a fly on a wall. I would be there almost unnoticeable, patiently observing, and refraining from commenting and taking any actions. By quietly observing I would learn a great deal about the industry, company, market, customers, employees, etc. Gradually, I would be able to identify opportunities and the contours of the problems would start to appear. I would study the problem meticulously since without a solid understanding of the problem itself I would not be able to solve it.

Defining the problem
Before concentrating on solving the problem, one should be able to describe it in a single sentence. Defining the problem also includes identifying who has the problem and why they want to solve it. The explanation should be succinct, clear, and comprehensible to a layperson.

Validation
I would validate the problem using two criteria: the number of people affected by it and the value it brings to the company. If one of your customers struggles with the problem, but most don’t, you should rethink if that is the problem worthy of your effort and resources. To determine the impact of the problem, I would conduct surveys and measure the number of people affected by it. Also, I would have to estimate the value of the problem and calculate how much my company would gain from it if I would manage to solve it.

Is there alignment?
Someone may want to solve a problem that is the most interesting, helpful, and even profitable problem ever. However, it is far from what the company wants to get involved in and that aligns with its mission. Having technology and resources to make customers happy is not enough if there is a lack of alignment with the company’s vision and goals.

Bringing people on board
People within the company often have conflicting goals and bringing them together and having them agree to solve the problem can be a daunting task. To secure company-wide buy-in, start with securing an agreement that solving the problem is good for the company. Only once that is assured propose how you would plan to solve it.

Lessons learned

  • The role of a leader is to enable the undisturbed flow of thoughts. That means creating an environment where everyone is encouraged to speak up and share their ideas. People who feel secure will proliferate more ideas and more ideas will bring to a better solution. Be a platform, not a leader -- pull, not push.
  • Keep an open mind. People are biased. They have their own opinions and their own ideas that they consider better than anyone else’s. Don’t be surprised how false those opinions/ideas could be. Speak to your customers and validate your ideas before rushing to announce the brilliance of your solution.

Discover Plato

Scale your coaching effort for your engineering and product teams
Develop yourself to become a stronger engineering / product leader


Related stories

Specialization vs. Wearing Many Hats

23 November

William Bajzek, Director of Engineering at Sapphire Digital, compares and contrasts a team structure that utilized siloed skill sets and one where everybody’s duties overlap at the edges.

Internal Communication
Collaboration
William Bajzek

William Bajzek

Director of Engineering at Sapphire Digital

How to Pivot a Product Idea at the Right Time

23 November

Adi Purwanto Sujarwadi, VP of Product at Evermos, shares how he diligently managed a product in one of the biggest eCommerce companies by being an individual contributor.

Innovation / Experiment
Product Team
Product
Embracing Failures
Adi Purwanto Sujarwadi

Adi Purwanto Sujarwadi

VP of Product at Evermos

Transitioning From Tech to Product Management

23 November

Nicholas Cheever, Divisional Vice President, Global Supply Chain Technology at Trimble Transportation, talks from his experience on how to excel in a PM role when transitioning from tech roles.

Ownership
New PM
Nicholas Cheever

Nicholas Cheever

Divisional Vice President, Global Supply Chain Technology at Trimble Transportation

Mergers and Acquisitions: Collaboration tools hold a key to bringing cultures together

23 November

Neelima Annam, Sr Director Information Technology at Outmatch, shares how something as minor as collaboration tools can be a BIG issue during mergers and acquisitions.

Acquisition / Integration
Internal Communication
Collaboration
Neelima Annam

Neelima Annam

Sr. Director Information Technology at Outmatch HCM

Overcoming imposter syndrome through focusing on your strengths

19 November

James Engelbert, Head of Product at BT, recalls when he had to battle imposter syndrome when managing a new team.

Product Team
Product
Health / Stress / Burn-Out
James Engelbert

James Engelbert

Head of Product at BT

You're a great engineer.
Become a great engineering leader.

Plato (platohq.com) is the world's biggest mentorship platform for engineering managers & product managers. We've curated a community of mentors who are the tech industry's best engineering & product leaders from companies like Facebook, Lyft, Slack, Airbnb, Gusto, and more.