Only 4 things to consider while switching products
Have you ever questioned whether you are in the right project? Do you feel like you need to move to another product or project and are wondering how to evaluate another team? The answer to the above questions may not be very straight forward and will depend on several factors. But here is a simple framework that I wish to offer that can help you to make the right decision.
There are primarily 4 criteria that you should consider, while reflecting on the work that you are doing or while switching to a new product:
1. The customer value — What is the value that your customers derive from the work that you and your team is doing
2. The business value — What is the value that your organization derives from the work that you and your team is doing
3. Your own learning — Are you learning something new and meaningful in your product that aligns with your long-term aspirations
4. The people — What is the team culture; How are the people in your team; Do you have a common value system
All these criteria are like the four legs of a chair. All four legs are necessary to have a joyful working experience. If any one of the criteria is not met, it would mean trying to balance on a three-legged chair. While you can maintain balance with only three legs, but very soon the comfort and joy of work will become marginal and you will start getting frustrated or uncomfortable.
Very often you will find yourself operating on this three-legged chair. Let me share some scenarios that depict this three-legged chair:
Ever been in a product where the teammates are pally, you have great work life balance, there is tremendous learning, and the customers are all praises for your work. However, there is no funding available for your team and your team gets dissolved. Here everything looks amazing, but the business value is not met.
The business in not making enough dollars to sustain you & your team. While you can enjoy working in this setup, you need to be aware that your work needs to accrue business value as well, else these engagements will be short lived.
The stressful life
Ever been in a product where the leadership & customers love the work that you are doing and the job is tough enough for you to learn loads however you are stuck between a bossy colleague and an indifferent boss. In such situations, you will find yourself growing, the product growing, but the conversations within your team will be extremely stressful. How long you continue sitting on this 3-legged chair will depend on your ability to handle stress and such situations.
Ever been in a product that is the cash cow of the organization where you mint money for the business, the customers cannot live without your product, and the team is very well established. Mostly in such scenarios, no one wants to disturb the team that has been delivering the results for years. In such situations, you are caught doing the same job for years and are left wondering about your purpose in life. This often happens when learning stagnates, and you are caught in the whirlpool of comfort and habits.
Customer — who?
You may find this situation rare, but it also happens when you are a monopolized product. In such situations, the business is doing great & the customers are paying well since they don’t have much of a choice. You are also doing great in the product since you are making money for the business. However, you find that the customer empathy and customer obsession in the team is on a downward spiral. In such teams you may find people talking about how customers really don’t know how to use the product or even if we let one customer go, we will find ten more. Such products often wrap up as soon as there is a meaningful competitor. Such teams, products, and organizations could be dangerous. They are an SOS / red alarm to your career and aspirations. You may just learn the wrong traits of the business here and then spend quantum years trying to unlearn what you have learnt.
If you find yourself in a product that has only 2 legs standing, then it could be the beginning of the end. So, it may be prudent to look for other options.
What to do
Now what to do! If you are balancing on a three-legged chair, you still have some hope. The answer to what to do, depends on your career aspirations, your priorities, & your current role. Therefore, this may be the time to self-reflect.
Here are some hypothetical scenarios to look into how your priorities may influence your selection.
Just beginning with your career
If you are just starting your career as a product manager, then you can choose to prioritize your learning, the people you are working with, and the customer value. The business value is critical as well however you can safely assume that someone higher up in the ladder may be taking care of it initially.
Here since your priority is to learn, you need to find a great team, a great mentor and a good product that gives you the opportunity to deliver great customer value in order to facilitate your learning. Once these three legs are solidified, immediately jump into justifying the business value of the work you are doing.
Take a break
I had one of my friends who was dealing with significant challenges on his personal front. His immediate need was work life balance. Therefore, he chose a stable product with qualified business value, customer value, and a great team at the cost of a challenging assignment. But once his situation was normalized, he immediately moved into a new team where he could grease his grey cells. You may want to look at your own situation to reflect on your priorities to make the right call here.
Looking for hard problems
If you are a senior enough product manager, then your career objective may be to solve complex and tough problems that deliver significant business results. At such a stage of your career, you are expected to know how to handle situations with people. Therefore, your priority would be to build a product that delivers significant customer value & business value, while ensuring personal learning. If you find such an opportunity then it may be fine to accept it while you can work your way through energizing people and being the change maker.
No customer value!
If you believe there is no customer value in the product you are building, then stop, reflect, and restart. No products should be built that do not have a promising customer value.
To summarize, customer value is paramount for any product & engagement. You can juggle between business value, your own learning, and your team relationships depending on your own priorities.
Would love to hear whether there are other criteria that you considered to make a move or to reflect your current product. Leave a comment so that I can learn from your experience.
All perspectives shared on this blog are my own and are not a reflection of any organization that I may be associated with at any point of my career.