I have experience as an APM in a web3 startup and have acquired the necessary foundational skills and training on Reforge to perform well as the only PM in my current company. However, the CEO doesn’t see much value in research, and decisions are made on the fly based on gut checks. This results in projects with no value, as the CEO decides on projects based on intuition and allocates people without involving me. After enough work, I am asked to take the project forward, stating that many people have already worked on it and will launch it again. This has led to difficulty in fulfilling my responsibilities and working on products with no customer value. I want to change this culture but have been unable to do so far. I am asking the senior management what they should do when asked to work on projects with zero customer and business value.
I’ve been there, and based on my observations, it’s rather usual for a startup to have a CEO with these traits. Bring the CEO your suggested course of action, justification, benefits and drawbacks, and supporting information. “Disagree and commit” if the CEO still insists on having it their way.
Since the CEO at a startup is ultimately in charge of all hiring and firing decisions (e.g., they can fire you at will), it’s best to take a CYA and/or start looking for a firm whose culture is more in line with your preferences.
Tactical: Does your team include a business analyst who can handle these projects? If so, put them in position for such circumstances.
Long-term: Inform your CEO of the value risks involved in failing to conduct proper discovery or user research at the appropriate time. If you can, provide examples. It would be nice if there were any failure case studies from your current company.
Move on if these are unsuccessful.
Here, I worked as an engineer. Most of the businesses there are playing house. The area is essentially empty. Blockchain technology has some useful applications, but they are typically incredibly enormous social issues that would take a lot of money and political will to actually solve.
Take a look at Coinbase, the most flourishing company. What exactly is the purpose of using Web3 for what they do? Users’ accounts may be terminated at any moment or at the direction of the government. There is no privacy during transactions. You need a Visa card, which is not decentralized at all and can also be switched off, in order to make any purchases with it. Therefore, their entire model is virtually useless. Benefits are not provided if self-custody is not practiced, but if it is, they cannot be used elsewhere. You hardly have enough room to transfer it back to your bank account without freezing it.
I adore the technology, but I believe that everyone in the field is having difficulty identifying use cases that offer users value.
I recently left a product role at Web3, and I couldn’t agree more. Because there are no worthwhile customer problems to solve, everyone in the crypto industry is just constructing solutions blindly and paying consumers to embrace them, which has completely destroyed the product culture. When the entire industry operates in this manner, it is very difficult to implement change at your company to make it more product-focused. This lack of focus on solving real customer problems also hinders innovation and stifles creativity within the crypto industry. Without a clear understanding of what customers truly need, it becomes challenging to develop meaningful and impactful products that can drive growth and success. Consequently, breaking away from this trend and instilling a product-focused mindset requires a significant shift in mindset and a concerted effort to prioritize customer-centricity.
Do you have any suggestions except for not building? Run projects with higher value up the ladder if you have the facts to support them. Additionally, consider investing in innovative technologies or exploring alternative approaches that could potentially increase the overall project value. It is crucial to thoroughly analyze and evaluate all available options before making any decisions, ensuring that the chosen path aligns with the project’s objectives and maximizes its potential success.
Changing the culture of a company, especially when it comes to decision-making and product direction, can be a significant challenge. Here are some steps you can take to address the situation and advocate for a more customer-centric and data-driven approach within your organization:
Understand the CEO’s Perspective:
Take the time to understand why the CEO makes decisions based on intuition rather than data. Arrange a meeting to discuss their thought process and how they perceive the value of research and data-driven decision-making. Understanding their perspective will help you tailor your approach for advocating change effectively.
Educate on the Value of Research:
Share the benefits and impact of data-driven decision-making, especially within a startup context. Highlight success stories from other companies and how research-led strategies have driven growth, improved customer satisfaction, and reduced wasted resources.
Present Case Studies and Data:
Compile case studies and data that demonstrate the positive outcomes achieved by companies that have embraced a data-driven and customer-centric approach. Show how these approaches have led to increased user engagement, higher conversion rates, and better product-market fit.
Suggest a Trial Period:
Propose a trial period during which the team can incorporate research and data-driven decision-making into a specific project. Offer to lead this initiative and demonstrate the benefits it can bring in terms of improved product quality and customer satisfaction.
Engage with Cross-Functional Teams:
Foster collaboration and communication with other departments to ensure everyone understands the importance of involving product management early in project planning. Show how this can lead to more successful projects with real customer value.
Propose Pilot Projects:
Propose initiating smaller projects or features that can act as pilots for the benefits of research-driven decision-making. Demonstrate how gathering insights, analyzing data, and involving you in the decision-making process can lead to more successful outcomes.
Request an Opportunity to Lead a Project:
Ask for the opportunity to lead a project from its inception, incorporating your skills and knowledge as a Product Manager. Present a clear plan on how you would approach the project differently and how it would result in customer and business value.
Highlight Competitor Success:
Showcase competitors or similar companies that have successfully utilized research and data-driven approaches to gain a competitive advantage. Emphasize how your company can benefit from adopting similar practices.
Seek Support from Peers and Influencers:
Encourage your colleagues and peers to support your approach by sharing their perspectives on the benefits of research and data-driven decision-making. A collective voice can carry more weight in driving change.
Be Persistent and Patient:
Changing a company’s culture takes time and persistence. Keep advocating for the importance of research and data-driven decision-making, showcasing its benefits and how it can positively impact the company’s bottom line and customer satisfaction.
Remember, approaching this challenge with empathy, understanding, and a clear demonstration of the value that data-driven decision-making can bring to the organization is key. Good luck in advocating for positive change within your company!
It is ultimately their decision, if they are the ones making it. When you can, point out hazards and offer suggestions for improvement, but if the situation calls for it, you can also disagree and commit. Just be careful to state clearly that you have misgivings and only want to be judged on delivery, not the result.
Still, dealing with a demanding, opinionated CEO and practicing effective delivery are two things you may gain from this experience. To be viewed as delivering, make sure you are always clear on how they define success.
I had a bad habit of merely pointing out the project’s flaws and failing to offer better solutions. I’m going to concentrate on this immediately. I appreciate your advice.
@HeatherKurtz, That’s very good advice. Thanks for sharing.
This is really fairly easy. Ask the correct questions to have a better understanding of the motivations behind this new endeavor and the objectives of the CEO. Choose other opportunities that, in your opinion, will perform better than the CEO’s desired result. Show him those things supported by data. If he is adamant about the project he wants, then accept that you will disagree and go ahead and construct what the CEO wants. No matter how excellent or horrible the choices are, they are ultimately his to choose since it is his business.