February 10

Matt the Mythical is a Villain of Chaos



This is another case of a feature factory, but this one is driven by sales.

It is often called deal-driven product management and it is a recipe for disaster as it generally leads to a bloated product where you have a ton of features that only satisfy one user, in turn adding a ton of complexity and technical debt. Many product teams think it is okay to add these feature into the product "until we have traction" and claim that they will no longer do it after they get traction.

Have you heard that story before? Far too often the features are never pruned, sticking around haunting you like a haunted house.

A worse scenario here is when features that do not exist are pre-sold. This often causes a fake emergency and is often caused by unbalanced monetary incentive issues. And it often ends up in adding a feature that should never be part of the solution.


Hold on, hold on. I hear what you are saying. "But I am listening to my customer."

Yes, you are. Yet you never want to take the customer's request as gospel. You want to run it through your filter and validate their need. You need to ensure that you have several cases where the same request has come from multiple customers. Or turn the original request into a solution that solves the needs of many at the same time.

You should always gather customer sentiment and other evidence to synthesized it with similar information to ensure that you solve a real market problem – think "is this for Matt or the Market".


UX discovery is your best friend here – validate you have a winning solution concept before you heavily invest in any idea.

You always want to assess the potential feature against your vision, mission, and validated problems to ensure that the request aligns with your overarching investment strategy. If it does not, then tell your customer no.

It is advantageous to more narrowly define who you are then try to be everything to everyone – that only works at super scale (think about all the features in Microsoft Excel – your vision must be much more laser focused).

Do not short circuit from requirement to execution without utilizing the full execution blueprint. Being market driven is great and feedback loops such as sales and customer support are invaluable – in fact, these are data points that your competition does not have, so if used properly it could give you an advantage.

However, these data points are simply formations of hypotheses. They need to be validated in the problem and solution spaces prior to being actioned against.

Corrective Advice Recap

  • Do not blindly implement customer ideas: validate, validate, validate
  • Customers as CPO is a formula for mediocracy: Ask yourself “is this for Matt or the Market?”
  • Ensure that you can explain the alignment of all of your investments with your North Star Metrics
  • Narrow your build scope by embracing “No” (hint: this takes courage and having a solid vision and product principles)
  • Validate all “good ideas” to pass the Mom test.
  • Ensure any pre-selling features is transparent to the customer and protected with contract guarantees and/or cash to warrant moving to the top of the priority list.


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