Product Management productivity

Modiji, Bullet trains, and the Prioritization conundrum

PM Modi and the Japanese PM Abe jointly laid the foundation stone for the first bullet train in India. Enough has been ranted about this in social media. About, why this is not the thing that is needed now. And why the Govt should fix all the issues that is plaguing the railways and so on.

I think this is a problem that Product managers face too (Hmm. Just a coincidence that, they are PMs too.).

The feature prioritization conundrum is the scenario where a PM is faced with a host of small urgent + Important  issues/features to deliver in a short time-frame ; and a smaller bunch of longish important but more challenging hard problems to solve. The engineers want to do the latter, but the former are very important too.

A PM cannot keep prioritizing the smallish important problems higher, because they will never end. You will never get to the largish challenging problems. This will lead to your engineers getting demotivated and doing mundane familiar stuff. But at the same time, you cannot just prioritize the challenging projects – this will keep your engineers happy – but the business suffers. Some of these urgent+important tasks are most likely important for the business.

One of the solutions to this is to assign more than one task to engineers. This should be a mix of the smaller urgent tasks and the longish exciting tasks. This will keep your engineers happy and the business going.

So, does that make, what our Prime Minister did, with the bullet train right? I do not know, since I do not have enough context. But if I see the PM as a PM ( 🙂 ), then I guess he is doing the right thing.


Hanselmann Productivity

This is a talk that Scott gave in 2012. He had a given a similar talk in SXSW 2014. Here is a summary of his talk -> [link]

While at it, do check out Scott’s blog here for some excellent reading.


Habit as a deterrent


Most self help books and blogs typically advocate the use of habits and rituals for attaining goals. For example, they would say get up early at 530AM and do half hour of exercise. Or, set aside half hour a day for journalling. While it does help a lot of times to do this, this has its own problems. For example, you get up late one day, you would blame yourself and postpone the exercise for the next day. If you still want to do it, it would hit other rituals of yours, and delay yourself further and so on. Worse still, you would be grumbling at yourself for not having done your initial ritual(s).

I recently read this great FastCo article, which talks about about this conundrum. If you rather set yourself a goal of half hour exercise per day, this could work out better. You could do a 15 minute work out sometime in the afternoon. Perhaps work in another 15 minute walk after lunch. Maybe take your kid to the park and do some walking there. You would reach your half hour of exercise.

Today may not be the same as tomorrow. Maybe I could not get up early enough today because I had late night conference calls the previous day. Maybe I would be able to get up much earlier the next day. So again, the ritual goes against this philosophy.

Again, this is not a satisfy-all formula. In fact, that is the whole point. What works for today may not work for tomorrow. What works for exercise may not hold for diet. What works for the summer days may not work for winters. Hold yourself accountable for the end goal rather than how you reach the goal.

(Reference: FastCompany article)

(image src: flickr)

innovation productivity

PillPack – Another Great Ideo Idea

Another super idea from Ideo – the design firm. Basic premise is to help folks take their medicines correctly at the right dosage at the right times. Without having to sort through medicines by yourself and figure what to take in the morning, afternoon, or night, pillpack works with your prescription and gives you these small tearable pouches with the date and time printed on them. You just tear the appropriate pouch and take the pills in the pouch. Nice. Another real world problem solved.

(via fastcodesign)

innovation Management productivity


Brainstorming is often mis-understood as open discussion – which it is not. This short animation/video shows how brainstorming, not done right, would not generate any ideas.
(via themuse)

misc productivity

Endorphins, Dopamine, Serotonin, Oxitocin, Cortizol

Nope. Not talking about a chemistry class or a drug prescription.

Fantastic talk by Simon Sinek. Long talk. But worth it. So so passionate.

misc Opinion productivity usability

Youtube vs Vimeo [Usability Peeve]

There is one big usability peeve I have about launching and watching embedded videos. My typical embedded viewing experience is as below:

  1. Read the article on (yes, I moved from greader -> feedly -> theoldreader – more on that in a different post).
  2. If I see a good video that I want to see, I typically click on the “youtube” icon or “vimeo” icon on the post, so that it opens up the video in youtube or vimeo respectively in a new tab.

vimeo   youtube

Now, when I do that, my reasonably average cognitive capabilities want me to think that the video link would open up in a new tab, and should wait for me to go to that tab and press play. Why? Because I had never pressed play on the embedded video. I had just said – open it for me in youtube or vimeo.

  • Youtube opens the video up in a new tab and begins playing it ! Whaa ??? I dont want to watch it now. I will watch it later.
  • Vimeo dutifully follows my thought process, opens up the video in a new tab and waits for me to go and press the play button.

In this duel, Vimeo wins. Sorry youtube.

PS: By the way, you should watch the planet six video. Hilariously done. Simple claymation with a message.

Management Opinion productivity

Delegating vs MicroManaging

Just read a great post by Steven Sinovsky in his “Learning by Shipping” blog, which he started, just after he left MS. This is one of his few rare concise posts. He has a ton of experience and fantastic in-depth into software management, but some of his posts just run too long. I liked this one.

The problem is clearly stated in the words of a first year MBA student:

High-performing people generally want autonomy to get things done without anyone micromanaging them.  At the same time, as a midlevel manager, I’ve often had someone above me who’s holding me accountable for whatever my direct reports are working on.

I’m struggling to find the right balance between giving people their autonomy while also asking sufficient questions to get the detail I need in order to feel comfortable with how things are going. 

And Steve provides 5 tips to find the right balance between delegating vs micro-managing.

  1. Delegate the problem, don’t solve it.
  2. Share experiences, don’t instruct.
  3. Listen to progress, don’t review it.
  4. Provide feedback, don’t course correct.
  5. Communicate serendipitously, don’t impede progress.

I mostly agree with all of them. My favourites (which I try and practice as much as possible) are (2) and (5). I am a big believer in Management by Walking Around (for middle managers atleast). It is so much more productive for the manager and the team.

Maybe sometime later, I will write up something myself on what I feel one can do to find the middle ground. But for now, you can read the full article here.

productivity technology

Feedly: Bring back the big green check mark

Dear Feedly

Could you please bring back the big green check mart which used to appear just below the article list? This used to be so much better.

What was:


Once I was done flipping through the articles, I would just go ‘bam’ on the “Mark feed as read”.

But now:


See how much I need to scroll to get to the teeny check mark. This happens especially bad in the Magazine view. It is slightly better in the cards view. But the check mark is still small. I want that big smacking green check mark to go ‘bam’ on when I am done reading my feeds.

Please feedly – in the interest of going mainstream, don’t take away these small pleasures.


Recent Greader->Feedly Convert.

Opinion productivity technology

Spam is no longer binary

Saw this statement in an article which was announcing the new tabbed Inbox for GMail (which I totally dig and am waiting for).

Spam is no longer binary.

I think this is very true these days. There are ofcourse some emails which are clearly 100% spam, but GMail and other webservices catch these pretty well. I rarely get any of these any more.

There are some of the other emails that land in my inbox announcing offers and getaways and deals. Most times it looks like spam to me, but there are times, when I let them be, because I feel there might be use for it later. A 50% offer on all best seller books in flipkart is something that looks like spam, but I may look it up some time.

Similarly, emails from my credit card company and/or banks. Most times I dont read them (except for the statements). But I am always afraid that there is some important information that these guys may have told me and that I may need to look up later (maybe during tax filing season!). Thank God for the Archive button in Gmail.

The third type of grey-spam are the social updates. Updates from Twitter, facebook, and LinkedIn. These are important to me, but look like spam to me sometimes.

The new tabbed inbox that is due to roll out very soon in GMail takes care of this, by separating these in different tabs, so that it does not distract you from the important actionable email.


Read the FastCo article here about the new tabbed GMail

(pic courtesy – the same fastco article).