2 min read

Don't make a hundred (product) decisions when one will do

One thing that pains me at work is when people perceive me to overthink. I don’t agree that I do 🤪

What I try to do is articulate decision criteria, product principles, and similar things, not for mental masturbation, but in order to make one generic decision that makes a hundred other decisions down the line.

Don’t make a hundred decisions when one will do. We’re continually hit by a blizzard of situations, opportunities, problems, incidents—all of which seem to demand decisions. Yes. No. Go. No-go. Buy. Sell. Attack. Retreat. Accept. Reject. Reply. Ignore. Invest. Harvest. Hire. It can feel like chaos, but the most effective people find the patterns within the chaos.

In Drucker’s view, we rarely face truly unique, one-off decisions. And there is an overhead cost to any good decision: It requires argument and debate, time for reflection and concentration, and energy expended to ensure superb execution.

So, given this overhead cost, it’s far better to zoom out and make a few big generic decisions that can apply to a large number of specific situations, to find a pattern within — in short, to go from chaos to concept.

Jim Colllins in his foreword to The Effective Executive by Peter Drucker

For example, we came up with a “Manifesto for Giant Swarm Application Management” inspired by the Manifesto for Agile Software Development.

Manifesto for Giant Swarm Application Management

We are uncovering better ways of providing Managed Apps by doing it.

Through this work we have come to value an App that:

  • Is OSS (open source software) at its core, over one that is commercial or proprietary
  • Provides value to 2 or more smaller customers, over one that provides value to 1 big customer
  • Contributes to a meaningful “stack”, over one that is valuable only by itself

That is, while we are open to apps on the right, we prioritize the items on the left more.

It’s less than 100 words. But eliminates the need to spend days and weeks making go / no-go decisions on dozens of apps down the line. It also helps us explain to customers why we provide certain apps and not others.

Of course, this is not dogma. We could decide, for example, that one app violates all these principles but would clinch the deal on a big, potential customer. This provides a basis for conversation on why that would be worth it.

Another more recent, yet-to-be-resolved, example: if we agree that two main features our product is Reliability and Service, we’d be tracking metrics, setting goals, and prioritizing Reliability and Service stories more than we do new features. This would help a lot with prioritization.

(Side Note: I’m reading Disicplined Entrepreneurship, a book Henning recommended, in order to understand what the implications for sales, product, etc. would be if “Reliability” and “Service” are our main products. This is in contrast to what we conventionally think of as our “product.” How would our work and priorities change if we saw App Platform and its features as vehicles to deliver our true products, Reliability and Service?)