Mastering Trade-Offs for Effective Product Management by@abhishek.deltech

Mastering Trade-Offs for Effective Product Management

Product Managers usually need to evaluate tradeoffs covering 3 “spheres” - the Technical sphere, the Business sphere and the Design sphere. Decisions that favour one aspect often end up compromising the other. There are three ways to deal with tradeoffs in product management: Voting, Impact Versus Matrices and Impact Versus Matrix. Product managers can streamline their decision-making process and focus on the solutions that represent more value with less effort and less time required. The perfect solution lies in the nuances of the divergence of many ideas.
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Abhishek Kumar

Naturally, the responsibility of choosing the right solution by assessing every aspect of the problem and its possible solutions falls on the shoulders of product managers. As a matter of fact, most common challenges faced by product managers are hefted with the weight of trade-offs. You can learn how to deal with these tradeoffs just by keeping a few things in mind and having a structured decision-making process.

Product Managers usually need to evaluate tradeoffs covering 3 “spheres” - the Technical sphere, the Business sphere and the Design spheres. Decisions that favour one aspect often end up compromising the other. 

Before looking at an effective approach to deal with tradeoffs in product management, let us go over a few things to keep in mind while dealing with tradeoffs.

A Few Things to Remember about Tradeoffs as a Product Manager

With the decision-making process already being cluttered and messy due to the tradeoffs, you don’t want the wrong mindset making it more time-consuming and ineffective.

Here are some things to keep in mind that will enhance your decision-making process:

Don’t Be a Perfectionist

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You won’t be able to find a viable solution for a problem in a field like product management if you constantly listen to the perfectionist in your mind. Understanding every problem’s solution lies in the nuances of its tradeoff will help you better evaluate the approaches and make effective decisions.

Eliminate Confirmation Bias

The last thing you want to alter your decisions as a product manager is your confirmation bias about a particular approach to a problem. Taking more inputs from stakeholders for solving the strategic problems of a product and leveraging fact-driven decision-making ensures that you go with the right solution for your problem.

Remember to keep these two mental models out of your mind when making decisions about the product. Let us now take a look at an approach to deal with tradeoffs that are unbiased, fact-driven, can be used to make goal-driven decisions.

A Foolproof Approach to Deal with Tradeoffs in Product Management

Most product management challenges involve bringing multiple stakeholders around strategic dilemmas and helping drive agreement towards an optimal solution. To make data-driven decisions aligned with objectives, there a couple of steps that can be followed

Ideation

Finding the right solution to the strategic problems that come along the way in product management starts with different approaches to the solution. The perfect solution lies in the nuances of the divergence of many ideas. Brainstorming is one of the most effective ways for divergence. Conduct brainstorming sessions with relevant teams to find the various ways that you can go about the problem. Also, determine the different opportunity costs that will be involved in each of the approaches to the solution.

Here are a few things to keep in mind to ensure that the divergence of ideas is organic and effective:

  1. Define your problem space and with stakeholders and determine the objectives of the solution.
  2. Invite every stakeholder or other people relevant to the problem space that might have the know-how to have solutions to the problem.
  3. Establish a comfortable environment for an effective discussion that goes beyond titles and authority.
  4. Hear and review every idea for the solution, even if it comes from someone whose responsibility is cross-functional and isn’t directly relevant to the problem space.
  5. Get every stakeholder on the same page with the problem space and objectives.
  6. List the best-unfiltered ideas with the list of tradeoffs involve.

Once you have a divergence of ideas for the solution, it is now time to evaluate each one of them through the opportunity costs they involve and find the optimum solution.

Convergence to Solution

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No approach in the list of ways to go about the problem after the divergence of ideas is going to be perfect. This is where product management gets complex. As a beginner looking to become a product manager, you need to understand it and make peace with it. You’ll often find several solutions that look equally effective but with different tradeoffs, making it hard to evaluate them. There are three ways to deal with the decision-making process in a scenario like this:

Voting: Voting is an effective method of selecting the right solution since every stakeholder represents their own interests takes into account e tradeoffs relevant to their function. This way, the approaches that are suitable according to the maximum number of stakeholders are selected for further evaluation.

Impact Versus Matrices: Time and resource management align with goal completion is paramount in product management. By making an impact vs effort matrix and an impact vs resources matrix for each of the proposed solutions, product managers can streamline their decision-making process and focus on the solutions that represent more value with less required efforts and resources.

Weighting: Weighting might be a time-consuming process but this is the most effective way to deal with tradeoffs. Start with defining your goals and scoring each idea on the basis of fulfillment of those goals. Use weighting to score each approach across different goals and choose the approach with the maximum sum of points. A good example of this can be the trade-offs involved in creating on-deman platforms. For a lot of stakeholders, the look and feel involved in tracking of orders might be the real issue. A lot of other stakeholders, mostly the TPMs, would focus on things like accurate estimation of ETAs and accessibility issues.

To sum up, problem-solving and strategic thinking is one of the core responsibilities of a product manager. But the tradeoffs or opportunity costs involved can make it hard to find the right solutions for a problem. By eliminating any perfectionism and confirmation bias from the process, product managers can make the decision-making process rapid, streamlined, and fact-driven.

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