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A Summary of

The Hard Thing About Complex Products & How I’ve Grown as a PM

Erin Chan
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Complex products require a higher degree of awareness and sensitivity. Major issues can lurk underneath the surface and aren’t always straightforward to resolve when they eventually do surface.

Lesson One: Be Accountable for the Size of the Team

  • Mind the team
    • Take an active part in the hiring process
  • Address concerns
    • Voice your opinion if you feel that the size of the team doesn’t match the expected outputs
  • Direct the focus
    • Actively ensure that everyone is focused on the project goals
  • Ensure health
    • Work with the UX Lead and Engineering Lead of the team to ensure that team health is strong

Lesson Two: Be Accountable for the Skillset of the Team

  • Create an outline
    • Create an initial plan for the work needed to build the product that satisfies your team’s goals
  • Mind the team
    • Assess the size, skill, and experience of your team — including your own capabilities
  • Fill the gaps
    • If there are knowledge gaps, put mechanisms in place to help the team to ramp up properly and quickly in those areas
  • Adjust the team
    • If you don’t believe that you have the right team, escalate and make team member adjustments

Lesson Three: Create Robust Communication Plans

  • Plan to communicate
    • Develop a detailed communication plan
  • Plan to travel
    • Create a structured travel plan to which both the Leadership and leaders of the product team can commit to meet in-person on a regular basis
  • Seek to restructure
    • See there is potential for the team to switch under a local leadership team

Lesson Four: Set Project Tripwires

  • Assess the landscape
    • Identify if your product is or could be a suitable candidate for a tripwire strategy
  • Create tripwires
    • Create a tripwire strategy, along with an action plan to resolve each contributing issue when tripwires are set off

Lesson Five: Set Personal Tripwires

  • Acknowledge YOU
    • Listen to your intuition
  • Create tripwires
    • Identify the personal tripwire indicators that would raise red flags
  • Gather your people
    • Share these tripwires with the people around you that you trust the most
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