Share this post

🔑 Key Takeaways

  1. Seek out challenging moments that make you question your qualifications as they provide an opportunity for personal and professional development. If you haven't had these moments in a while, consider exploring new opportunities.
  2. Thorough preparation, checklists, and staying calm are essential in product management. Just like in mountain climbing, these principles help prioritize and handle challenging situations effectively.
  3. Lane Shackleton recognized the impact of developing clear principles and following them consistently, leading to the implementation of role stages and centralized compensation decisions at Coda.
  4. Successful product managers prioritize implementing effective systems that consistently drive progress, rather than fixating on specific goals. Embracing the power of systems helps navigate ambiguity and achieve long-term success.
  5. Success in customer service comes from focusing on fundamentals, being creative, listening deeply, embracing innovation, and approaching problems with fresh perspectives.
  6. Product teams and leaders should focus on a broader vision and purpose, communicating clearly and involving the team in planning cycles to connect their work to the bigger picture.
  7. Embrace uncomfortable moments as opportunities for growth and reflection, rather than avoiding them. These experiences can provide valuable learning opportunities and gauge personal development in one's career.
  8. Facing obstacles and embracing new rituals can lead to personal and team growth, unlocking hidden treasures and maximizing potential.
  9. Implementing a feedback system with categories like suggestion, recommendation, FYI, and plea can save time, prevent resource wastage, improve communication, streamline processes, and foster an efficient work environment.
  10. Catalyst by Coda introduces a solution to the inefficiencies of traditional review forums by allowing for simultaneous discussions on different topics, resulting in better throughput and faster decision-making.
  11. Adapting rituals and processes to enhance team performance can begin with adopting smaller rituals and templates. Higher-level decision-makers can drive transformation, while continuous iteration and improvement allow for creativity and innovation in team dynamics and decision-making.
  12. By implementing a structured decision-making process, utilizing a table of upcoming decisions, and adopting a braintrust model, teams can improve efficiency, communication, and alignment within an organization.
  13. Stop talking and start making things happen. By implementing ideas and taking a proactive approach, teams can gather valuable data, overcome obstacles, and find successful solutions. Prioritize action and learn through practical experience.
  14. It is important to go beyond talking about ideas and instead take action by running experiments, creating prototypes, and making mock-ups. Valuable learning opportunities arise from expressing and putting out ideas, leading to improved outcomes.
  15. Building a deep understanding of customers and their needs through continuous engagement and utilizing available tools can make you a valuable asset in product management.
  16. Crafting clear and concise messages that address core problems, assuming others don't care about details, and utilizing impactful content distribution strategies are essential for successful communication.
  17. Embracing two-way writeups improves collaboration and decision-making by integrating conversations, feedback, and important questions into the content, making it a better approach for product managers and teams.
  18. Feedback systems and separate strategy discussions are essential for gathering diverse perspectives, ensuring all voices are heard, and making better alignment and decisions. Excessive planning can be avoided by following the 10% planning rule.
  19. Incorporating unique interview questions can provide valuable insights into a candidate's abilities, including problem-solving, adaptability, creativity, and communication skills, enabling employers to make more comprehensive assessments during the hiring process.
  20. Prioritize safety, be open to learning and feedback, and find a supportive community to achieve personal and professional growth in work, life, and sports.

📝 Podcast Summary

Embracing discomfort for growth

Seeking out moments that stretch you and make you uncomfortable is crucial for personal and professional growth. Lane Shackleton, Chief Product Officer at Coda, emphasizes the importance of these "oh shit" moments that challenge you and make you question your qualifications. He believes that these moments provide the opportunity to develop a new foundation and expand your capabilities. Instead of simply asking if you feel like you're growing in your role, he suggests asking yourself how many of these challenging moments you've had and what they were. If it's been a long time since you've felt stretched or underqualified, it may be worth exploring new opportunities. So embrace the discomfort and seek out those moments of growth.

Principles of Preparation, Checklists, and Composure in Product Management and Teamwork

Preparation, checklists, and staying calm in challenging situations are crucial principles of great product management and teamwork. Lane Shackleton's experience as a mountain guide taught him the importance of thorough preparation and redundancy in systems. Spending months preparing for a few days of climbing highlighted the value of checklists and ensuring all equipment is in place. Additionally, staying calm and assessing the situation before prioritizing and taking action is vital in both climbing and building software. Shackleton's memories of guiding a client with a broken foot and the senior guide's ability to remain calm and handle the situation showcase the importance of composure. These principles can be applied in product management, where preparation, checklists, and maintaining composure are keys to success.

The Importance of Clear Principles in Building Software

Lane Shackleton realized the importance of having a set of principles that transcended levels and roles within a company. Inspired by a talk about "Inventing on Principle," Shackleton recognized the impact of developing clear principles and following them consistently. This led him to start writing down his own principles, particularly as they pertained to building software. When it came to career ladders and performance reviews at Coda, Shackleton took the advice of delaying their introduction to maintain a focus on the company rather than individual incentives. The company implemented five role stages, from apprentice to principal, with a high bar set for the highest level. Unlike other companies, these role stages aren't visible across the whole organization, and compensation decisions are made by a centralized committee, not individual managers.

Focusing on Systems for Success

A key principle of great product managers is focusing on systems rather than goals. Product managers play a critical role in turning ambiguity into clarity, and this requires mastering the skill of spotting ambiguity and transforming it into clear action steps. Rather than solely fixating on achieving specific goals, successful product managers prioritize implementing effective systems that consistently drive progress. This approach is exemplified by Jerry Seinfeld's method of building his comedy routine. Instead of fixating on the goal of building up an hour of material, he developed a system of writing for an hour every morning and performing at night. Similarly, product teams that prioritize consistent customer communication and research as a default system tend to have better instincts and understanding of their target audience. By embracing the power of systems, product managers can navigate the ever-present ambiguity and achieve long-term success.

Developing customer instincts through a systematic approach and fostering positive relationships

Developing good customer instincts requires a systematic approach rather than just setting it as a goal. This is exemplified by the experience of scrambling to have a prototype ready for a customer at Airbnb. Additionally, the practice of having lunch with hosts without any agenda helped foster positive relationships and pleasant experiences. The book "The Score Takes Care of Itself" reinforces the idea that focusing on fundamentals leads to success. The quote about making art from the Rick Rubin book highlights the importance of being in a creative state rather than fixating on the end result. Lastly, the concept of listening deeply, as mentioned by Rick Rubin, is valuable for product managers to truly understand and absorb what others are saying. Embracing a beginner's mind and breaking free from existing mindsets can also lead to innovation, as demonstrated by AI developing novel strategies in Go. The idea of having a walkthrough ritual further encourages approaching problems with fresh perspectives and finding solutions.

Building a cathedral: Seeing the bigger picture in product management.

Great product teams and leaders in product management should focus on building a cathedral, not just laying bricks. This metaphor emphasizes the importance of having a broader vision and purpose for the team, beyond just executing tasks. It's easy for PMs to get caught up in day-to-day tasks and lose sight of the bigger picture. To avoid this, PMs should help the team see different facets of the cathedral and show them how their work connects to the broader vision. This could be achieved through clear communication, presenting directional mocks, metrics, and involving the team in planning cycles. Additionally, seeking inspiration outside of traditional PM literature and mentoring others can help define and reinforce these principles.

Embracing discomfort for personal and professional growth

Seeking discomfort and embracing moments of uncertainty and growth is key to personal and professional development. Lane Shackleton emphasizes the importance of pushing oneself outside of their comfort zone, whether it's through watching and analyzing the storytelling techniques of the best storytellers or taking on challenging experiences like telling a story or developing a clear strategy. These uncomfortable moments, often accompanied by the feeling of "Oh shit, I shouldn't be here," are actually valuable opportunities for learning and progress. By actively seeking out these moments and reflecting on them, individuals can gauge their growth and development in their careers. So, instead of asking vague questions about career growth, it is more helpful to ask oneself how many of these "oh shit" moments they have had and what they have learned from them.

Embracing challenges for personal and collective growth.

Embracing challenges and obstacles can lead to significant personal growth and profound moments of life. Running towards obstacles instead of running away from them, as discussed in the book "The Obstacle is the Way" by Ryan Holiday, can open up opportunities for growth and success. By facing our fears and diving into the things that we find difficult, we may discover hidden treasures and experiences that we would have otherwise missed out on. This idea applies not only to personal endeavors but also to teams and organizations. By studying the rituals of great teams and embracing new rituals, we can create a culture of innovation and collaboration, allowing us to maximize our potential and achieve great things together.

Enhancing Productivity and Decision-Making Through a Feedback System with Distinct Categories

Implementing a feedback system with distinct categories can significantly improve productivity and decision-making within an organization. By utilizing categories like suggestion, recommendation, FYI, and plea, teams can effectively prioritize and address the most important feedback. This approach saves time and prevents valuable resources from being wasted on less crucial matters. Additionally, providing a shared language for feedback allows leaders to communicate their level of urgency or importance clearly, avoiding misunderstandings and unnecessary changes. This system also helps leaders understand the weight their words carry and encourages team members to think critically about their own feedback. Ultimately, implementing such a system can enhance communication, streamline processes, and foster a more efficient work environment.

Improving Product Development with Catalyst by Coda

Having a transparent and efficient review forum is crucial for product development in a company. The traditional review forums often suffer from two main problems: standing attendees and single-threaded discussions. When there are standing attendees, important stakeholders might not be present, leading to ineffective decision-making. Moreover, single-threaded discussions limit the throughput and slow down the company's velocity. To address these issues, Catalyst, a system developed by Coda, offers a solution. It divides the review process into three one-hour blocks throughout the week, allowing for simultaneous discussions on different topics with the right attendees. This leads to better throughput, faster decision-making, and ultimately, a higher velocity organization.

Implementing Rituals and Processes in Different Contexts

Implementing rituals and processes from one company to another depends on the individual's role and the specific context. For new employees, it may not be appropriate to completely revamp established processes right away. However, they can still adopt smaller rituals or templates to enhance their team's performance. Creative rituals, like the "hundred dollar voting" method, can be easily picked up and applied in planning sessions, making it a great tool to address and resolve disagreements within the team. On the other hand, when companies want to transform their entire system, it usually requires the involvement of higher-level decision-makers who have more authority to shape the team's operations. While Coda has its own stable processes like Catalyst and tag-ups, there is still room for continuous iteration and improvement. A good example of this adaptability is how the team at Coda developed their decision-making process, starting with a manual approach and then integrating automations for greater efficiency. This shows that there is always room for creativity and innovation in improving team dynamics and decision-making.

Streamlining Decision-Making for Efficient Collaboration

Having a structured decision-making process can greatly improve efficiency and collaboration within an organization. By utilizing a table of upcoming decisions and allowing stakeholders to indicate their level of involvement, teams can streamline their workflow and avoid unnecessary delays. This approach, known as the tag-up, ensures that key decision-makers are engaged from the beginning, reducing the need for information to be relayed through one-on-one meetings or intermediaries. Additionally, adopting a braintrust model, where key stakeholders meet regularly to discuss project work, can further enhance communication and alignment. These practices are part of a larger handbook that aims to provide teams with a comprehensive resource for implementing effective rituals and improving team dynamics.

Taking action to overcome challenges and discover effective solutions.

Implementing practical strategies and roadmaps is crucial for success. Lane Shackleton and his team at YouTube faced challenges when it came to skippable ads, as advertisers and the sales team were hesitant about the idea. However, instead of endlessly debating, they decided to take action and run experiments to test the extremes. This approach allowed them to gather valuable data and gain conviction in their concept. The key lesson here is to stop talking and start making things happen. By taking a proactive approach and actually implementing ideas, teams can overcome obstacles and discover effective solutions. It is important to prioritize action and learn through practical experience rather than getting caught up in discussions.

Taking Action: From Ideas to Implementation

Action speaks louder than words. It is important to go out there and run experiments, create prototypes, write documents, and make mock-ups instead of just talking about ideas. This concept applies not only to individual contributors but also to heads of product, chief product officers, and CEOs. By expressing and putting out ideas, valuable learning opportunities arise. This lesson is reflected in the example of Twitter, where they spent years researching and overthinking changes before realizing that they don't have to be so delicate. It is rarely as bad as one may initially think, and the focus should be on how much better things can become. Additionally, early career experiences in customer-facing roles like ad approvals and support provide invaluable lessons in understanding and serving customers effectively throughout one's career.

The importance of time, patience, and understanding in becoming a successful product manager.

Becoming a successful product manager often requires time and patience. It may not happen overnight, and it's important to give yourself the opportunity to grow and gain experience. Additionally, being customer-facing can be a valuable asset in the tech industry. Whether you're in a tech company or a customer-facing role in another industry, having a deep understanding of the customer and their needs can significantly benefit an organization. This knowledge can help shape product decisions and earn the trust of both customers and engineers. The key is to continuously engage with a diverse range of customers and use the various tools available to gain insights into their mindset. By knowing your customers well and providing value based on their needs, you can establish yourself as a valuable asset in the field of product management.

The Power of Concise Messaging and Impactful Distribution in Effective Communication.

Effective communication requires concise and sharp messaging. Many people, whether internal or external stakeholders, simply don't care about the details or product features. This realization should prompt individuals to assume that others don't care either and craft their communication accordingly. By starting with this assumption, one can focus on delivering clear messages that address the core problem or need at hand. Additionally, the importance of content distribution and publishing flywheels is highlighted through the example of Tim Ferriss Day at Coda. This event underscored the power of reaching a wide audience through influential channels, inspiring the team to double down on content distribution strategies. Overall, brevity and impactful distribution are key to successful communication.

Moving Beyond PowerPoint: The Power of Two-Way Writeups

The traditional method of using PowerPoint for presentations and one-way writeups is becoming outdated. The shift towards two-way writeups, where conversations and feedback are integrated into the content itself, is proving to be more effective and inclusive. The problems with one-way writeups, such as the uncertainty of who has read the document, meaningful discussions limited to small comment margins, and debates focusing on the title rather than the content, are being addressed. New tools and features, like the "done reading" button to track readers, a table to organize important questions, and sentiment gathering for overall feedback, are improving collaboration and decision-making. Embracing two-way writeups allows for clearer expression of ideas and ensures that the most important questions are addressed, making it a better approach for product managers and teams driving discussions and decisions.

Importance of Feedback and Separation of Strategy Discussions

Having a sentiment table or a feedback system in place is crucial for receiving valuable input that might otherwise go unheard. This was evident when Lane Shackleton received unexpected feedback on a proposal from a team member who is usually not vocal in meetings. Without the sentiment table, Lane wouldn't have known about the concerns raised. Therefore, it is important for product managers and teams to adopt similar feedback mechanisms to gather diverse perspectives and ensure that all voices are heard. Additionally, in terms of strategy and planning, it is essential to separate strategy discussions from OKR discussions. Having a distinct strategy process allows for better alignment and decision-making. Furthermore, following the 10% planning rule helps prevent excessive planning and allows for flexibility to adapt and learn as new information emerges.

The Power of Unique Interview Questions

Asking unique and thought-provoking interview questions can provide valuable insight into a candidate's passion and problem-solving abilities. Lane Shackleton, during a conversation with Lenny, shared his favorite interview questions - "teach me something that I don't already know" and a version of the teleporter question. These questions not only test a candidate's ability to learn and explain new information but also evaluate their adaptability and communication skills. Lenny also mentioned Maya's question from a previous episode, "what would your podcast be if you were to start one?" These creative interview questions can help gauge a candidate's creativity, originality, and suitability for the role. Employers can benefit from incorporating these types of questions into their hiring process to assess candidates in a more comprehensive manner.

Embracing Change, Safety, and Community for Growth

Creating momentum, positive change, and progress should be a guiding motto in work, life, and sports. Active listening, or the modern version of it known as steal manning, is a valuable skill to learn, as it allows us to understand and communicate others' perspectives effectively. When it comes to pursuing climbing or any challenging endeavor, it's crucial to prioritize safety and know when to come down, setting aside our ego for the sake of our well-being. Additionally, it's important to remember that taking part in outdoor activities doesn't have to be an all-or-nothing decision. We can always engage in them on the side or come back to them later. Overall, being open to feedback and embracing a supportive community can lead to personal and professional growth.