The Power Of No. Thanks To The Product Objective

Stephanie Pagano
Jul 5 · 2 min read
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One of my favourite things about Objectives and key results (OKR’s) is the Product Objective. Otherwise known as a “one liner”, a single sentence that gives the power of “No”. As a Product Manager (PM), I lean on this a great deal.

As PM’s, we have many great ideas from countless sources that land in our laps. But, we have limited time and by saying yes when we want to say no, we can over commit our teams. Everything we say yes to, takes away our capacity to deliver on our objectives.

But why is it so hard to say no?

Because we fear disappointing others. When put on the spot, we often respond based on our anxieties rather than our rational mind. Benchmark Psychology “Saying “No”- a beginners guide” recommends

When you are put on the spot, learn how to say something like “I’d like to think about that before I give you an answer” or “I’ll need to check my diary before I give you an answer”. This will give you the chance to step away and consider the opportunity rationally.”

So what does this mean in a Product context? In this case, the easiest thing to do is take some time to consider it, take a moment to assess whether the request will help deliver on your goals and objectives. You can consider whether it is a “No”:

  • Just for now — the idea may help you solve a problem and deliver on your goals, however it isn’t a priority currently, as what you are working on right now is more valuable.
  • Forever — The idea doesn’t help solve the problem you are trying to solve.

Either way, be sure to listen to the requests, thank the team or individual to appreciate their time and effort involved in thinking of an idea and sharing it with you. You can divert attention to your product “one liner” which helps present your response in a rational way which you can share back with your stakeholders. Your thoughtful explanation ensures they’ll be more receptive than if you’d responded with flat out “No” or the classic “I’ll put it in the backlog!”

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