PRODUCTHEAD: Should we be saying no or not?

PRODUCTHEAD: Should we be saying no or not?

PRODUCTHEAD is a regular newsletter of product management goodness,
curated by Jock Busuttil.

a product at a wedding (no no no no no no no no) #


tl;dr #

Saying no to a good idea requires confidence in your product strategy

Even if saying no to an opportunity, take the time to understand its value and context

Keep ideas and suggestions separate from your product backlog

Clear company goals and strategy make it easier to say no to unaligned requests

Saying yes habitually to one-off custom features will usually kill your product business


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every PRODUCTHEAD edition is online for you to refer back to

hello #

Much as we’d like to, product managers can’t have a perpetual ‘yes day’.

We can’t agree with our team to chase down every user need we discover.

We can’t say yes to every one-off feature requested by sales to close a deal (or indeed any).

We can’t take on every side-project people want us to be involved with.

We can’t always confirm to the CEO that we’ll absolutely, positively, definitely ship at 3pm on Tuesday.

Sometimes we just have to say no. But what is the best way to do so? We’ll be exploring this topic together in this week’s PRODUCTHEAD.

Speak to you soon,

Jock Busuttil

what to think about this week #

Product strategy means saying no

If you’re building a product, you have to be great at saying no. Not “maybe” or “later”. The only word is no.

Building a great product isn’t about creating tons of tactically useful features which are tangentially related. It’s about delivering a cohesive product with well defined parameters.

“New shit has come to light”

[DES TRAYNOR / INTERCOM]

As a product manager, how do I say no to my CEO in the most effective way?

Saying “No” is the bread and butter of a product manager. Not only to CEO, but to everyone. What distinguishes great PMs from not-so-great ones is how they say no.

Great PMs are very nuanced in saying no; they do it in a way that rarely creates a conflict.

Procrastination can be your friend

[BORIS KRSTOVIC / QUORA]


Product Management Coaching

Whether you’re new to product management or have been a product manager for years, a coaching session can help you to step up your career.

We’ve coached people wanting to get into product management, product people with nobody in their organisation to manage them, and experienced product managers preparing to apply for a promotion.

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Should Product Managers Say No?

Despite the hair pulling, the thinking that product managers should say ‘no’ to ideas goes against the grain. A product manager should have the skill set to listen and prioritize ideas that they think will work to solve customer problems. So instead of saying ‘no’, product managers should be focused on saying ‘yes’ to those things that will help make a positive difference, and learn more about the ideas they’re not sure about.

Does saying ‘no’ break your culture?

[ANDREA SAEZ / PRODPAD]

The Art of Saying No by Mina Radhakrishnan

As product managers we practice the art of saying no every day. As much as product is about building and shipping great products, invariably in order to launch some things we have to not launch others. And that’s a big part of the job, but it’s never fun and can take it’s toll.

In this awesome talk from Mind the Product San Francisco, Mina Radhakrishnan talks about how to move away from simply saying no.

“If you chase two rabbits you will lose them both”

[MINA RADHAKRISHNAN / MIND THE PRODUCT]

Saying No to Good Ideas

The Q&A at the end of these talks from Bruce McCarthy and Rich Mironov is particularly on-topic.

We can’t do everything, even if our executives believe we can. So how do we decide what to focus on? And how do we say NO to a huge stack of good ideas in order to focus on a few great ideas… then stick with those and finish something?

Why one-off requests kill product companies

[BRUCE MCCARTHY & RICH MIRONOV / MIND THE PRODUCT]

recent posts #

You are allowed to say ‘no’ – it’s strategic

Product managers hate saying ‘no’. It’s not in our nature to disappoint people. We want everyone to be happy with our products. We’d much rather say a nice, cooperative ‘yes’ that makes everyone happy and leaves us feeling warm and fuzzy.

The problem is that saying yes to everything creates manifest chaos.

Attempting to do everything results in an unfocused mess

[I MANAGE PRODUCTS]

The unifying principles of product management

A recent tweet by John Cutler provoked some interesting reactions. It got me thinking about whether there are unifying principles of product management that apply in all contexts.

Become one with everything

[I MANAGE PRODUCTS]

What to do when service transformation goes wrong

When companies set out to improve a service or redesign a product, the results can sometimes be underwhelming. Instead of delivering service transformation, the team recommends only minor efficiency tweaks. If this has been happening to you, there can be many underlying causes. I’ve identified a few common problems and what you can you do about them.

Change means doing things differently, not just a rebrand

[I MANAGE PRODUCTS]

The neverending quest for product-market fit

Often the biggest barrier to your product’s widespread adoption is going to be whether it reaches product-market fit early on. Even if you do, you’re wrong if you think you never need to worry about product-market fit again.

It’s not a one-off exercise

[I MANAGE PRODUCTS]

upcoming talks and events #

I’ve spoken at various product management and technology conferences around the world. I share ideas primarily on the topic of product management, and this tends to overlap with agile and ethical product development, digital transformation, and fostering healthy product cultures and communities.


“Day 2 saw an impressive presentation by Jock Busuttil on user testing. He asked the attendees to lend each other a smartphone and take a picture. What a turmoil that caused ;-) ”

Walter Schärer

Walter Schärer
Marketing & Business Development Director, BlueGlass Interactive


If you’d like to book me to speak at your event, please get in touch.

can we help you? #

Product People is a product management services company. We can help you through consultancy, training and coaching. Just contact us if you need our help!

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Helping people build better products, more successfully, since 2012.

PRODUCTHEAD is a newsletter for product people of all varieties, and is lovingly crafted from slightly-too-large school uniforms.

Jock is a freelance head of product, author and conference speaker. He has spent nearly two decades working with technology companies to improve their product management practices, from startups to multinationals. His clients include the BBC, University of Cambridge, and the UK's Ministry of Justice and Government Digital Service (GDS). In 2012 Jock founded Product People Limited, a product management consultancy and training company. He is also the author of the popular book The Practitioner's Guide to Product Management and the blog I Manage Products.

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