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Why writing about product management is boring


Because you cannot share the most important. "The tools don't matter," writes Ken Norton, who recently revived his wonderful blog "Bringing the donuts". By tools, he means all the techniques, methodologies, frameworks. hardware and software we use to manage our products. All that does not matter, but tools are almost all we ever write about. 

I read a lot of PM blogs, I write one myself and most of what I read is about tools. Why? Because it's easy to write about tools. Or, to put it differently, it's way more difficult to write about what really matters. 

What really matters? 

Context and decisions. You might have the best tools, you might be the expert in using them, but if you apply the tools wrongly - you'd not succeed. Say you "work in Scrum" but your roadmap is fixed on the feature level for the next two years. Or you "listen to your customers" but end up developing your boss's idea anyway. Or you "ship the MVP" but then immediately move on and never revisit it. There are many more mistakes like that you can do, the difficulty is that often those don't seem like mistakes until much later. Your brain is great at coming up with a narrative to overcome momentary stress. You don't want to think you're bastardising Scrum so you tell yourself "we're just trying to find what works for us". You don't want to admit you follow HiPPO so you tell yourself "they're really experienced and know what they're talking about". You don't want to face product criticism and so you tell yourself "it was just an experiment and we've learned from it". And then you blame it on tools. And write how the tools should have been used. Because it's easy. It's easy to use tools in ideal, theoretical conditions. 

Why it's hard to write about what really matters? 

Because it means admitting you screw up. Yes, you did something wrong, made a mistake. Maybe, and most likely, not only you but you as well. And whatever they say - it's hard to admit to own mistakes. 

And then there is context. It's mainly people, your relationships with them and their relationships with others. It's what they said, what you said, what they heard and what you understood. And feelings, which is a banned word in a business setting anyway. We love to pretend that when we're at work we somehow able to turn off our feelings and become strictly functional robots, rational at all times.  Obviously, we can't, but we also can't admit the significant part feelings play in our decision making. 

So how do you write about those important subjects without violating people privacy and potentially hurting their feelings? Or how do you explain context when you can't reveal any sensitive business information? It's tough, especially when you write for free. And so you avoid the touchy important topics and stick with tools. Because tools are easy, tools are impassionate and tools don't matter. 

Things I'd love to read and write about someday

  • How do you stay true to your product vision? 
  • How do your principals manifest in your decision-making? 
  • How do you work with people you don't like? 
  • How do you align goals between different stakeholders? 
  • How do you build and maintain relationships when you can't bring donuts? 

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