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Mental models are simple expressions of complex processes or relationships. These models are accumulated over time by an individual and used to make faster and better decisions.

Here’s an example: the Pareto Principle states that roughly 80% of all outputs comes from 20% of the effort.

In the context of product management, the model suggests that instead of trying to create 100% of the customer opportunity, you may want to look for how to do 20% of the effort and solve 80% of the opportunity. …

If the craft of Product Management is often mired in ambiguity, managing product managers is ambiguity².

When you start managing PMs for the first time, you are forced up a steeper managerial learning curve than in other functions. This is because the average PM you may manage is already quite experienced, due to the fact that PMs typically start the role after success in other disciplines or entrepreneurship. That’s in contrast to disciplines like engineering or design, where initial management responsibilities start much earlier in a career due to the more established entry pipeline from schools.

I’ve directly managed over twenty PMs in my career now, and for the last year have managed manager-PMs as well. My takeaways from those experiences are that while you must still excel at basic management hygiene like consistent 1:1s, direct feedback, and clear goals — you need additional frameworks if you want manage PMs effectively. …

Some of the best PMs I know make their decisions based on first principles. A first principle is a “basic, foundational proposition or assumption that cannot be deduced from any other proposition or assumption.”.

An example of one that we use for our developer platform team are that “all platform features should be like Lego blocks”, meaning that developers should be able to use any combination of features when building an app. Features should be interoperable, just like Legos.

First principle thinking helps PMs because as companies scale, communicating the rationale behind historical, current, and future decisions can be simplified in a way that their team and stakeholders can rally around. …


Brandon Chu

GM, Platform @shopify. Still a PM at ❤️.

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