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Overcoming 🔮Shiny Object Syndrome with Customer Conversations and Data

How to Roadmap with the loudest guy in the room

You know the story. You’re the product manager and have worked hard to organize the quarterly product planning meeting with the leadership team and key stakeholders. You’ve engaged customers, worked with the dev team to estimate effort, combed through 1,000 support tickets. Tirelessly charted a thematic vision in a beautiful presentation full of facts and hypotheses.

Credit: Marketoonist

You know that if you engage the stakeholders in planning out the roadmap you’ll end up with more buy in and perhaps better decisions. So you put cards up on the whiteboard, talk them through and open it up. Perhaps you’ve got a planning game where stakeholders get poker chips to create a dynamic of discussion and tradeoffs.

Then someone clears their throat. Perhaps it’s the VP of Sales, or the founding CEO. They eloquently and persuasively argue for their feature. Perhaps it will be key to land the big deal. Perhaps it’s just a shiny object. It might not even be a prepared card. And despite best logic, constraints and reason that persuasion works with the team. And you’re stuck with that Shiny Object at the top of your list.

I was that guy.

I suffer from 🔮Shiny Object Syndrome and can be persuasive to the point of creating a reality distortion field that envelops all. Perhaps these attributes make me a good entrepreneur, but it has it’s time and place. And it’s not in a planning meeting. I don’t ever want to be that guy again.

In the worst cases, you can have Shiny Object Syndrome spread, and as Rich Mironov describes in the Slippery Slope of Sales-Led Development.

If you’re working with that person, you’re not going to win by becoming them. And it’s not that you want to win, you just need to find balance. And that comes from bringing customer insights and data into the room.

So I’m going to do my part. First by checking my biases (it’s a big list).

Second, by always being mindful that the less I impose my voice with answers, that better answers and teamwork that matters can emerge.

And Third, by seeking to have the voices of customers and data in the room. You should always be able to flip over a card, and ground the discussion with facts. That doesn’t mean it should get in the way of new ideas, instinct from experience and vision. But it needs to be part of the conversation.

PS: Part of our mission to help Product Managers create awesome products, is to bring customers and data in the room.

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