The Best Product Managers Hurry Up and Take It Slow

product manager go fast, go slow

Here is a riddle for you: How do you go really fast while taking your time? No, this is not a trick question. It is actually inspired by an old Latin phrase, “festina lente.” By now you are probably wondering why you should care about this ancient oxymoron.

The phrase translates to “make haste slowly.” It might not mean anything to you at first. But I believe that festina lente should matter to product managers.

Achievements are made when you can strike a balance between urgency and diligence. When you can think deeply and act with gusto.

If you have been reading my blog posts, you already know that I believe in urgency at work. So much so that our team at Aha! built a framework for success that we call The Responsive Method (TRM). It is based on the belief that interactions with urgency propel people and organizations forward. However, the methodology starts with the first principle of being “goal-first” which means you know what you are trying to accomplish. 

We live TRM every day. For example, our Customer Success team (which is made up of all former product managers) responds to all customer requests globally in under two hours on average. The goal is to respond to customers as quickly as possible. This gives us the best chance of interacting with them when they actually need us to provide real value.

Our urgent interactions have helped us grow the company fast. But would we have gotten anywhere if we were responsive — yet sloppy? What if those two-hour responses were filled with errors? I think the answer is pretty obvious. That is why you need to have clear objectives to know if you are on target. 

So clear goals and diligence. That is the answer to the riddle. It is what every quick-working product manager needs.

Why do you need diligence?
Diligence is how you make urgency a success strategy. It will ensure that your tasks are not rushed or filled with mistakes. And it will make the difference between building a product that simply works and one that customers truly love.

How do you put this into action?
As I mentioned, start by setting clear goals. This helps everyone know exactly where they are going so they can move forward — quickly — in the right direction. Knowing where you are headed removes uncertainty, disagreements, and accelerates action. 

What do you need to make this work?
Continuous feedback — it is the secret ingredient to this fast-slow approach. Giving and receiving feedback helps you clarify issues and warns you when you are off track and need to pause. And receiving feedback continuously means you can get a bit better every day.

What if your work does not offer continuous feedback?
Maybe you work somewhere that does not provide this kind of ongoing feedback. I would still encourage you to seek it out — whether it is by applying a critical eye to your own work or finding a trusted colleague who can help. See it as your opportunity to earn achievements fast and slow.

When you work with both urgency and diligence, you can transform your quick interactions into great achievements — products that make a difference.

And if you are a passionate product manager, is that not the ultimate goal? So, go make haste slowly. Festina lente.

How do you balance speed with quality at work?

About Brian and Aha!

Brian seeks business and wilderness adventure. He is the co-founder and CEO of Aha! — the world’s #1 product roadmap software — and the author of Lovability. His two previous startups were acquired by well-known public companies. Brian writes and speaks about product and company growth and the adventure of living a meaningful life.

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