How Do Product Managers Reject Bad Ideas?
They’re coming to you with an idea. Ungallant to reject it, right?
As product managers, we’re the Grand Central stations of ideas: We don’t necessarily originate all the ideas for the product, but all ideas should route through us on the way to their final destination. Some ideas go to production, some to the backlog, some back to the drawing board, and others to shallow graves.
Unfortunately, killing off bad ideas isn’t always an easy thing…
Are You A Natural Born Bad Idea Killer?
Are you one of the rare breed who can spot a bad idea from 100 yards away and shoot it dead without nicking the person waving its banner? Then–please–share your insights below! For most people, rejecting ideas isn’t so easy.
People feel protective of their ideas, and often invest some of their own self-worth into those ideas. If you’re not careful, you may end up accepting a bad idea because you’re afraid of hurting their feelings–or, on the flip side, bruising their egos by too callously discarding their ideas. Neither is a good option if you want to go far as a PM.
As a product manager, I often find myself walking the tightrope of encouraging idea generation while simultaneously evaluating, prioritizing, and eliminating ideas.
Whirlpool’s process for evaluating and testing product ideas is sensible. Key criteria? The product must meet a consumer need in a fresh way; have the breadth to become a platform for related products; and lift earnings. If the idea doesn’t fit, it logically should be rejected.
Purist Product Management offers a three-gate process for idea review and elimination. A key element to their process is quick feedback to the idea originator on why the idea is being rejected or pushed forward for further evaluation.
Stick to the facts, explain the rejection, and move on. Sounds simple.
But What If The Bad Idea Belongs To The CEO?
Then you’re screwed! Ha ha! Just kidding.
Yes without No destroys one’s own satisfaction, whereas No without Yes destroys one’s relationship with others. We need both Yes and No together. For Yes is the key word of community, No the key word of individuality. [...] The great art is to learn to integrate the two–to marry Yes and No. That is the secret to standing up for yourself and what you need without destroying valuable agreements and precious relationships.
Will this tactic work with your CEO? Depends on the CEO, your relationship with them, and how well you can construct your argument.
It’s not always easy to say “no”. That said, we are paid to think strategically and to make the right things happen at the right times for the right audience.
Every time you say “yes” to something middling or routine, you’re saying “no” to something strategic. Find the right way to strike that balance or someone will be answering “no” to the question, “Should we keep that PM on our payroll?”
That ended in a dark place… Let’s try to brighten things up: What have your experiences been like saying “no” to bad ideas, or to good ideas that don’t fit for X, Y, or Z criteria? How do you handle having your own ideas rejected?