The other day at work, I was fleshing out some 'surprise' (in other words: kind of un-scoped) details of a feature my team is launching next release.
I can't go into detail, but to set the scene, this 'surprise' work entailed a data migration.
- The decisions to be made were mostly technical in nature.
- There were a couple of important product decisions, mainly having to do with how the data would be exposed to customers.
This migration work needed to start soon. Like, maybe today. As a product manager, I didn't have a whole lot of time to get a consolidated opinion among my team, mull it over, and spec out the complete list of risks, etc. that I normally would with a long-term feature.
Sometimes, as software product managers, we do not have the luxury of time to make decisions.
There are cases where, as software product managers, we just have to make the best decision with the information we have at the time. This is not always ideal, but it is the reality of working in a real-life, functioning software product team.
As Richard Branson famously said (and I'm paraphrasing here):
It's better to make a bad decision today, than a good decision a year from now.
Two more reasons to make quick and firm decisions when needed:
- If engineering's work is being held up because of product's lack of decision, engineering will probably make the decision for you, because they want to get their work done.
- The solution engineering chooses may or may not be ideal for your users... although it's sure to be ideal for your engineers!
Don't fret if your decision turns out to be less than ideal.
This is why almost every software product team uses some variety of Agile Methodology - we now have the tremendous power to iterate quickly when things don't turn out as expected.
Let's face it - things rarely turn out as expected - in software development, and in life!
Make the best decision you can at the time, roll with it, and tweak as needed in subsequent releases.
Last piece of advice: Do not be wishy-washy with your decision - Have confidence.
- Make the decision.
- Communicate the decision.
- Have confidence in your decision, and defend it when needed.
Confidence is contagious - so if you sound confidence in your quick decision, the rest of your team will be too.