Seven Steps to Enlightenment for Early-Stage Product Teams

by Kerkko Visuri

Product management is often neglected by startups. This post will help you identify warning signs of absent product management and show the steps how early-stage founders can improve clarity, simplicity and focus.

1. You need product management from day 0.

The first mistake is omitting product management completely in the spirit of “keeping it lean”.

In reality, product decisions won’t go anywhere even if they're swept under the rug. They are lurking behind the corner, waiting for every opportunity to disrupt your developers’ and designers’ workflow.

Do this for a year and wake up to a bloated codebase, unshipped design ideas, and a burnt out team.

"We need to stay lean!"

Good product management creates clarity, which allows people to focus on problem-solving, minimizes context switching, and buffers from unfiltered impulses. This will improve both your direction and speed of progress.

Be explicit and upfront with your decisions.

2. Focus on a problem before working on a solution.

Are you doing systematic product discovery or simply following your vision? While the latter can work, it’s like trying to get rich by playing the lottery.

Customer work is hard when you’re starting out. It’s much more comfortable to start theory-crafting and building what you think the customers might need. This leads to unique, technologically superior products, that are at least category-defining to you. The only problem is that nobody uses them.

The stubborn will hire a Head of Sales, pour more money into marketing, and avoid responsibility by claiming “the market isn’t ready yet“. The enlightened will head out the door to have a reality check.

Solve a real customer’s real problem. Distinguish your thoughts from facts.

3. Learn the magic word.