Saying No

The importance of saying no as a product manager

One of the most important product management skills is the ability to just say no.

As a PM, you will likely receive quite a few feature “suggestions”. Customers will bombard you with feature requests. Developers will want to work on new technologies. Salespeople will want you to build the feature that helps them close a deal.

When you get suggestions like this, fight the urge to say yes.

The Importance of No

There is nothing inherently wrong with saying yes to solving a particular customer problem. If we said no to everything there would be no software to say no to in the first place. But when you are saying yes, it is important to remember the simple fact that time and resources are finite. Saying yes to one feature means saying no to all of the other features your team could be building at that time.

Your main responsibility as a product manager is to pick and prioritise the most important customer problems for your team to solve. Doing this will involve saying no to lots of other problems that your customers have. It will definitely involve saying no to feature suggestions that often don’t solve real customer problems in the first place. The late, great Steve Jobs put it better than this essay ever could:

“We don’t want a thousand features. That would be ugly. Innovation is not about saying yes to everything. It’s about saying NO to all but the most crucial features.”

Building great software requires focus. A focus on solving only the most important customer problems. Focus involves saying no.


****PS: Sometimes, knowing that you should say no is the easy part. Knowing how to say no can be a bit more difficult. I initially included a section in this essay on “How to say no” but removed it as I’m no expert. When I was researching for this essay, I came across this interesting new site on ProductHunt: How to say no. Might be useful if you are trying to say no to a colleague or customers but don’t quite know how to phrase it :)