Andrew Chen’s Traction Treadmill and Why His Good Advice Is So Hard to Follow

Giff Constable startups

Andrew Chen, long one of the best startup/growth voices out there, just tweeted about “The Traction Treadmill” —“It’ll kill your company,” he writes. Before I go on, let me explain what he means by that term. You’ve got a startup with okay customer retention, but not great. You successfully boost growth by doubling or tripling sales & marketing spend. You’re …

10 Lessons on Making Software

Giff Constable product management

It’s hard to avoid the agony on prod-eng Twitter about the basics of making software. It’s heartbreaking. Making software is hard, but we as humans do like to make it harder. Here are 10 lessons of my own about agile software, in case it is helpful. Some are high level and some are super tactical. Use only as useful for …

How narrow should an initial customer segment be?

Giff Constable product management

This summer I’ve been teaching product management to the tech MBAs at NYU, and like all teaching, it’s forced me to clarify my thinking. I’m going to touch upon some of those areas in the next few posts. Today’s topic is customer segments — in particular, the initial ones you choose to design for and market to. I’ve been pushing …

Dual-Path Careers for PMs (and Designers)

Giff Constable innovation, management, product management

(These thoughts went out in my weekly newsletter this morning) Ken Norton has an in-depth article pitching a dual-track product management career path. He doesn’t really speak to the economics, but that’s what I want to address because I think this is all about economics, or should I say, outdated economics. When I ran Neo, which was an innovation consulting company, we had this …

Luck, bias, and dumb mental shortcuts

Giff Constable startups

A sentence stood out to me yesterday in a doc Randy Silver shared on Twitter: “One of the most jealously guarded secrets of TV is the reality that those who get their pilots made and show picked up on any given year are usually no more gifted, visionary, or prodigious, than the ones who did not.” The document Randy shared …

Tactic: Diverge and Converge

Giff Constable leadership, product management

You’re an inclusive leader. Maybe you’re an executive trying to find good ideas and give more people a voice. Maybe you’re a PM trying to foster the creative juices of your team. What’s your move? Do you get everyone in a room (virtual or real) for a brainstorm, break out the sticky notes (virtual or real), and let the conversation …

Case: The Sudden Resignation

Giff Constable case, management

Last week’s case prompt, to both the executive cohort and the aspiring-executive cohort (senior/director level) in Case Camp, went as follows: As CPO, you spent 6 months looking for a senior PM to lead up a new effort. You went looking for a particular skillset in wearables, which is in high demand and short supply, and so were excited to …

Magnets & Repellants

Giff Constable culture, product management

There were lots of takes on Basecamp’s (formerly 37Signals) latest announcement on internal company policies. Ben Thompson was interested in the work-life separation inside the large tech companies and how the lack thereof is coming home to roost at places like Google. Melissa Perri noted that the “no politics” policy could have an impact on ethical design (or the lack …

Proposing “Valuation Weighted Returns” as a Better Way to Prioritize Projects

Giff Constable leadership, management, product management

This post, I admit, is aimed pretty squarely at senior executives, but hopefully others can follow along as well. As an executive, how would you decide between projects that could: a) improve retention; b) increase growth; c) protect against a lawsuit or regulatory fine; d) get ahead of debilitating tech debt; e) improve customer love and brand strength; f) build …