As a product manager you are constantly flooded with new product ideas, issues with current products, schedule conflicts with in progress development, and pre/post sales questions that require your attention. To handle those appropriately, one of the most important skills that a product manager can have is that of prioritizing things competing for your time and energy. Some of that ability to prioritize comes from a gut feel for what should be most important, but the most important thing to use when prioritizing things is to determine whether it will help make the company money. Keep in mind that things that make the company money aren’t just related to sales. Sometimes “making the company money” means growing margin by improving operational and development efficiencies. A good product manager will master that careful dance between launching “new” and improving the “old” all towards the goal of making the company money.
Even if a product manager has mastered the dance and learned the balancing act between driving acceptance of new products and improving existing products, that doesn’t mean that they still won’t be distracted. My term for those distractions is “shiny objects”. Shiny objects are those things that constantly pop up in our work intent on distracting us from what really matters and what our real priorities should be.
One of the first and most easily recognized symptoms of Shiny Object Syndrome (SOS) is that of “Group Think”. Now working through problems and gaining consensus through group thinking is not a bad thing, but there must be some key elements involved in each group think session. Those elements are:
- Initiators – Those that bring new ideas to the table and perhaps leading the discussion. These are the types that are talk in the “what if…” kinds of phrases and push organizations forward. Without this group ideas become stagnant and status quo.
- Blockers – These people are extremely important to the whole process as they bring up the “but what about…” issues. Without this group of people, new ideas go forward without thinking through details of the new ideas.
- Supporters – These people participate in the conversation by adding their voice to either the Initiator or the Blocker. These are also important players in group exercises in that they help sway the perception of validity to one side or the other. Without supporters the “right” idea may go by unnoticed.
- Observers – While this group may remain quiet through most of the group think session, they may provide valuable insight later during the execution of the idea after they have thought it through.
So how does this relate to SOS? Without the key elements listed above, you end up with one of two things:
- Half-baked ideas that are not on target for your customer market
- Stagnant business momentum because there are no out of the box thinkers
In a given company you may have “pockets” of each of these issues. Take a look around you and see if you can find any Group Think symptoms of SOS around you.