Shuttle Diplomacy Decision Making for Product Managers

Recently, I started mentoring aspiring Product Managers. During one of the mentoring sessions, I was asked about the process I follow whenever I get a group of people into a meeting room to make a decision.

My answer was that I never put a group of people in a meeting room to make a decision. I’m an introvert who likes to avoid conflict. Having a group of people in a meeting room debating decisions is a good way to create conflicts, and to complicate matters.

Shuttle Diplomacy is my favorite approach to facilitating decisions that involve many stakeholders. The process is simple.

  1. Write a Decision-Making document (A Google doc)
    1. Outline the problem, few possible solutions with the pros and cons of each.
    2. Highlight one of the solutions as your recommended solution.
    3. Keep it short. 3 Pages maximum.
  2. Share the document with your most powerful decision-makers, and ask them to leave their comments.
  3. If you get disagreements or push back from some of the stakeholders, ask for a quick one to one catchup with the person pushing back to understand their concerns and discuss whether if some risk should be accepted, or that the solution should get updated based on the new information you learned from this stakeholder.
    1. You should leave that one to one meeting with an agreement.
  4. Once you get the agreement from your most powerful stakeholders without making them meet each other, you can update the document to only include the winning solution.
  5. Share the document again with the rest of the stakeholders to get feedback and uncover other concerns
    1. Highlight that this has been reviewed by the most powerful stakeholders.
    2. Set a deadline for confirming the decision
  6. If needed, do an Amazon-style reading session for the document. You should get no push back during the reading session if all concerns have been addressed in advance.

This approach saves me a lot of headaches and saves the organization a lot of unproductive man hours.

Don’t shoot down a bad idea!

I was recently reading Creativity Inc, by Ed Catmull the president of Pixar and Disney Animation studios. One of the interesting parts that stuck with me from the book was the idea of how every great idea starts as a bad idea.

Ed calls it “The ugly baby”. The ugly baby is your idea in its first early days. This is the same for every film made by Pixar and Disney. They all started as bad ideas, but it took lots of iterations and effort to clean up and experiment with each idea till it grows up into something beautiful. Continue reading

So you believe in Luck?!

Tyche (luck), goddess of fortune

Tyche (luck), goddess of fortune

It’s always interesting to see someone — especially if a successful person — being asked about “Luck”.

A typical answer he would give might be something like “I don’t believe in luck. I believe in hard work, and bla bla bla ..”.

I understand how we all tend to be defensive when it comes to the things that define us; our achievements. So whenever someone try to take away our achievements from us by hinting that it might be a stroke of luck that made us successful, we rush to denying the existence of luck at all.

So does it really exist?!

A monkey hitting keys at random on a typewriter keyboard for an infinite amount of time will almost surely type a given text, such as the complete works of William Shakespeare.

The Infinite monkey theorem is one of the famous examples that come with mathematical support confirming the existence of luck.

It might be a bit extreme example, but if it can be proven to be possible once, then it can be repeated again and again especially if the outcome we’re looking for is way less complicated than trying to make monkeys write the complete works of Shakespeare.

Luck or a piece of luck?!

Excuse my use of this silly example, but it has been proven that this kind of examples works; most of the time.

Look at me. I will roll a dice. I wish it will give me a 6.

Umm.. Sadly it didn’t. It just gave me a 5. What does that mean? Was I lucky or not?!

It actually depends! .. if you assume that this dice roll was a silly simplification of how life works, then I assume that I was lucky. Maybe not extremely lucky, but I got a lot of luck that I can build on to reach the 6.

If I roll the dice again, and get a 1. Then I can say that I have a lot of work to do to reach the 6. I didn’t have lots of luck that time, but at least it wasn’t a zero.

In life, that’s how luck works. The infinite number of variables in the universe keep changing all the time and forming billions of billions of unique conditions, that each one of them can be in your favor, or not .. or maybe a little.

Conclusion

I’ve no conclusion or inspiring statement to share with you. I was just trying to state a fact, and I just did!

Originally posted on Medium for some reason I don’t remember!

Customer happiness

Originally posted this on Medium in Oct 2014

Customer happiness is one of the most interesting areas I give a lot of attention to, and it goes hand in hand with the area of Managing Company Culture.

I used to lead the customer care efforts at my first startup and I learned a lot from that, and one of the best lessons I learned is that turning a super angry customer into a super happy customer isn’t that complex, it depends a lot on your attitude while dealing with that customer’s complaint. You should make it clear that all you care about is that customer’s happiness before anything else.

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