In a startup in most cases,one of the founders, will be assigned the role of product manager. Even if the guy do have theoretical knowledge on product management and is a veteran in the industry this might not be helpful enough. In the case of a startup, the dynamics are different and the soft skills, market insight, strategy etc need to be different. Below are some of the most common product management mistakes that happen in a startup.
1. Setting unrealistic timelines
Yes, as a startup you might need to be a little aggressive with your progress. However If the timelines are unrealistic sooner or later they are going to be missed. Over the period the team will start to doubt the importance of those deadlines and will slowly treat them unimportant. So keeping a realistic deadline even while trying to be a little fast paced is very important in product management.
2. Changing the scope very often
One of the key characteristic of startup product is agility. You might be following a weekly or bi weekly sprint . However once the scope of a sprint is freezed try to stick with it.
If the planned scope of work changes very frequently, it is very likely that your team will loose focus and ignore the importance of the scope. Sometimes the reason for such changes will be your primary client changing his mind too often. However it is better to say “no” to your client or ask him to hold on with the change request for some time.
While the ”need of the market’ is always important, honoring the execution plan is critical to ensure high productivity for long term. If such changes are happening too often you might need to recheck your product management planning process and try to find a solution for the problem.
3. Trying to push your technical solution to your engineering team
This might be a grave mistake based on the scenario. Historically the engineering team tends to be emotional about their technical problem solving skills. They might not respect technical advise from a non technical product manager even if he is a rock start business person. The result might be totally counter productive.
It will be better to make your engineering team understand the problem the business solution that you expect and let them do their job of finding the best technical solution.
Even if you have a technical background, take a diplomatic approach in suggesting your solutions to the tech team. make sure that that they too will agree with it without a pinch of salt.
4. Agreeing a new feature or milestone to your customer without confirming with the team.
Sometimes the entrepreneur himself will play the role of sales person and product manager. When you meet a potentially big customer, you might get into situations where you have to say “Yes” to some of the requests.
It might be adding a new feature to the product or advancing the next milestone by a few weeks or days etc. In many cases this will be managed with minimal impact or with some slog.
But sometimes, this will result in a remarkably big change in plan which will frustrate your development team big time. Sometimes the feasibility of such a change also will be doubtful.
So for better product management make sure that you understand the possibility and impact of every business commitment, before confirming the same.
5. Trying to modify the feature roadmap, with every customer feedback
It will be exciting to introduce your product to customers and take feedback. In early stages almost every customer that you meet will have many feedback about your product. However it is not a good practice to add/remove/modify features from your product based on every customer feedback.
Not all customer will represent the actual target market for your product. So it will be wise to hold off on the changes for some time and try to gather more feedback. You can later group the feedback, analyse & identify those that are really important and plan your execution.
While in few situations one or two from the list need to be disturbed, it is better to avoid them as much as possible. A motivated and high energy team can deliver better results faster with quality. Product management has a critical role to ensure this happen.