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Start by doing what’s necessary; then do what’s possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible. – St. Francis of Assisi

Sometimes things get difficult … in relationships, in life, and of course our in roles as Product Management leaders as well.  Now is one of those times, and not coincidentally I seem to be getting hit from multiple directions with encouraging messages about persistence, patience, and stamina.  That what may seem impossible may just be a mountain that needs to be faced to carry us forward.

I’ve used the intro quote above in previous posts, and it is no less appropriate now.  And when it comes to illustrating the point of doing what is necessary, of just putting one foot in front of the other, of enduring through the pain to accomplish the impossible … I like using this scene from a little known movie called Facing the Giants.

There will come times where competing priorities are not just the norm, but become so pervasive that it feels like a mountain impossible to overcome. In situations like these, seek first to understand … then to be understood:

  • Weigh the facts – make sure you have all of the facts straight … nothing can derail a Product Manager faster than not having all of their ducks in a row. Seek first to understand …
  • Give it thought – as a leader, you will be most effective when your actions are aligned under the banner of a consuming vision.  Make sure you understand how this particular mountain plays into the bigger story.   What are the opportunities or threats? What is to be gained or lost?
  • Seek counsel – with all due respect all of us, none of us are smart enough to face/solve every challenge on our own.  Make sure you have the environment to share ideas and receive guidance. This may be a mentor that you can bounce ideas off of, or a support group, or at a minimum key stakeholders within your area of responsibility that you trust.
  • Act courageously – once you have assessed the mountain, weighed the options, and fortified your position with input from others, now it is time to be understood. When you are confident that you are acting in the best interests of your product and/or the business, don’t be afraid to defend your position.  It is what is expected of you … even if you are eventually overruled by executives.

So what do you do when feature enhancements are stacking up, but all of the constituents don’t agree on what should be developed first? Your biggest customers want some things (and maybe not even the same things), engineering is pushing for architectural enhancements, executives are pushing along a different (perhaps strategic) path, and the market is moving in an entirely different direction.

Well, that is another post altogether :).