Product Management – How to say No!

It is very hard to say NO but sometimes you have too, in order to focus, You have to say No!

If you are like me there are several things both at work and life that demand your attention but understand that you cannot satisfy all the demands. When you go down the route of satisfying every demand you invariably end up cutting corners. Cutting Corners = Nobody is happy.

                             But saying No does not come easy, in order to get started down this route  it requires some homework to be done. Here are some of the rules that have worked for me :
  • Set your goals 

                 I know this sounds corny, but trust me having a set of goals helps you understand what you want to accomplish and if there are demands being made that are orthogonal to your goal. Well put them to the side or just don’t take on those demands (i.e. say NO). I was initially doubtful that this technique worked, but in my past experience as a product manager, I applied it and to my surprise it worked

  • Look at what you have on your plate and really assess if you can add value by doing everything or the additional demands that are being put on you

              I am not a “multitasker” and I am not ashamed to say it.  In order for me to get the job done well I need to concentrate on the work at hand. Whenever I sign up for key projects I look what I have on my plate and assess the level of effort required that is my liking. Like every other type A personality I don’t like “good enough”. If I cannot justify that I will be able to do a good job on a project then my involvement in the project is not meant to be. I apply the same logic to my meetings. There are some folks who believe being in more meetings apparently adds value to the work people are doing. I believe that meetings to have a clear outcome (i.e. inform or call to action) otherwise having a meeting to have a meeting is just a useless waste of time. BTW it did take me a long time to get this place and I am still learning at this skill.

  • You can say NO politely 

          You really don’t have to be a d**k  about saying No. You can do it politely and make sure you don’t burn any bridges.  Burning bridges can haunt you later in your career or future business relationships. The other day some one wanted me to review a document and told them politely “I would love to, but I am tied up with another key deliverable and I won’t be able give the document the proper attention it deserves”. It took me several years to perfect that line, I think I have finally cracked it. 

Just being busy for busy-ness sake does not make you productive or useful to anybody you are working for or with. There is no substitute for listening well, although my wife would argue that I still don’t listen well. To me that just means there is room to get better.  Just like everything in life, transformation happens in increments and learning to say No will happen that way as well.      
You can contact me @ kkanakas on twitter with your comments
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