Why Every Second Counts in Product Management

By ADRIENNE TAN

I’ve become a big fan of the phrase “Every Second Counts”.

It’s something I came across when watching the second season of ‘The Bear’. The story focuses on the trials and tribulations involved in launching a new restaurant, and this show really resonated with me as it reminded me of what we go through with the launch of a product.

When we launch products, time is of the utmost importance, and every moment of indecision and delay means that the product cannot launch. If the product doesn’t launch, it delays the feedback loop, which in turn delays our opportunity to extract value and get a return on our investment.

Making every second count should be profoundly important to you if you’re in product management.

Time is a Resource

Time is one of our most valuable resources, but as time is always in constant motion, it often slips through our fingers unnoticed – impeding our ability to achieve our ambitions.

I see time slipping away every day when companies we work with take too long to make decisions on simple matters.

There is a difference between taking the time required to gather and analyse information to make good decisions and delaying the act of decision-making because we are nervous. We can’t wait around for the perfect moment to happen because perfect moments are only something you can see with the benefit of hindsight.

Organisations can often fall into the trap of not realising that the more time they take to make a simple decision, the less time they will have to derive a return from that decision. Like any trap, you don’t realise you’re in it until it’s too late – and at the moment it seemed like the right call to make.

The key to maximising time as a resource is being aware that time will keep moving on regardless of what you do.

Is your organisation waiting for a new Product Leader to be hired and get up-to-speed to be a part of the decision-making process? Look at what smaller decisions can be made in the interim to keep the wheels turning.

Does your team require training? Scheduling a training course at the start of the financial year will give you more benefits than a year waiting to commence training at the end of the year.

Want to put off creating your product strategy until you’re less busy? You’ll only be guessing how busy your workload will be in the future, whereas in the here-and-now you can schedule in time with some level of confidence.

We are often ensnared in the mirage of having ample time. This illusion can lead us astray, causing us to squander moments that should be harnessed to their fullest potential.

Let’s dig deeper into the effects of a delayed hiring decision. If a decision is put on hold the workload will continue to build – adding pressure that may cause us to rush the final candidate selection. If we suspect that we’ve hired the wrong candidate, and then wait again to determine if they will up-skill on the job, if their capabilities don’t improve we’ll then have to make a performance decision.

By delaying the decision-making process we’ve not only reduced our ability to deliver on our ambitions but have also forfeited any new opportunities we could have gained in that time. A simple delay in hiring decisions could have a long-tail, negative ripple effect.

The Illusion of Time

When committing to deliver revenue targets for the year we ostensibly have 12 months to execute our strategies. But how much time do we actually have?

Here’s where the dichotomy between perception and reality emerges.

We can instantly write off the 4 weeks of the year we take for annual leave – which bumps us down to 11 months. And if you start to think about sick days and weekends, the amount of productive days you’ll have in the year drops way down to under two-thirds.

That drastically diminishes our opportunity to deliver our revenue within the expected 12 months.

Added to that, a seemingly innocuous delay – perhaps a two-week postponement in making a crucial hiring decision – assumes new dimensions when we consider it as not just a fortnight but as a fragment of our finite timeline.

Every moment bears weight, and incremental delays erode our opportunity to fulfil our revenue pledges.

“Time is an illusion. Lunchtime doubly so.”
- Douglas Adams

We are often ensnared in the mirage of having ample time. This illusion can lead us astray, causing us to squander moments that should be harnessed to their fullest potential.

Let’s dig deeper into the effects of a delayed hiring decision. If a decision is put on hold the workload will continue to build – adding pressure that may cause us to rush the final candidate selection. If we suspect that we’ve hired the wrong candidate, and then wait again to determine if they will up-skill on the job, if their capabilities don’t improve we’ll then have to make a performance decision.

By delaying the decision-making process we’ve not only reduced our ability to deliver on our ambitions but have also forfeited any new opportunities we could have gained in that time. A simple delay in hiring decisions could have a long-tail, negative ripple effect.

Building a Time-Aware Mindset

Product Management embodies the art of resource allocation, and time is the most precious resource we possess. Our mindset should transition from one that assumes abundance to one that acknowledges scarcity. By doing so, we can cultivate an environment that breeds discipline, swift decision-making, and an unwavering focus on our goals.

“Every Second Counts” is more than just a timely phrase to remember; it’s a manifesto that Product Managers should engrave into their professional ethos.

To become more time-aware in your product practice, here are four steps you can follow:

  1. Observe the language used in your organisation. When you hear “let’s wait for…”, it’s a signal to probe further.

  2. Ask what’s stopping you from making a decision now.

  3. Identify the risks of making the decision now and the risks of making the decision later.

  4. Quantify (in your head) the cost of making the decision later.

 

By adopting a time-aware mindset, you’ll be on your way to ensuring every second counts.

About The Author

Adrienne Tan

Co-Founder and CEO - Brainmates

Adrienne Tan is a visionary CEO with over 20 years of experience and her thought leadership has been featured in publications and conferences worldwide. As the co-founder and CEO of Brainmates, she has helped companies across industries and around the world achieve the product advantage.

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