Product development stories: Sylwester likes to say no


A short interview with Sylwester, Product Owner at Pragmatic Coders on the topic of product development.

Sylwester: As a Product Owner, I’m responsible for maximizing the amount of work that has not been done. Yes, this is not a mistake. When you create a product, you always have more ideas than you can implement. That is why it is crucial to say “no” to the non-essential. If you want to be focused, you have to say no.

I like to joke that my job as a Product Owner/Product Manager is simple because when you will bring me a request/task which needs to be done, I will simply reject it. But behind this joke is hidden the essence of my work. I am responsible for maximizing the business value of the teams’ work. That is why I need to make my team as productive as possible. How can I do that? I will use the words of @Shane Parrish who is one of my favorite bloggers and thinkers:

The most powerful productivity tool ever invented is simply the word no”.

A lot of people who achieved a spectacular success have a similar approach. Just like Steve Jobs who once said:


People think focus means saying yes to the thing you’ve got to focus on. But that’s not what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are. You have to pick carefully. I’m as proud of the things we haven’t done as the things I have done. Innovation is saying ‘no’ to 1,000 things.

When I am analyzing tasks from a product backlog I always ask myself: „Is this needed at all?” and if I say yes to this question, I ask another one: „How we can get the same result doing one-third of the described story?”. Thanks to those two questions I can remove from the backlog 50%-80% of tasks and focus only on the most essential ones. You can easily calculate the impact of the product development speed when you use this approach.

To summarize, in my view maximizing the amount of work that has not been done is necessary to speed up product development. In result, you pay less, only for the essential work, which needs to be done to create or optimize your product.

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