Measuring vs hustling

April 21, 2014

I don't know what it is about late night tacos with a friend (other then deliciousness). Eating one with Chris made some bulbs go on. Even as I was hustling to chow down the goods, I got to thinking about hustling versus measuring as a manager. Think about which you do more.

Taco al pastor

This is miracle food from Little Chihuahua on Divisadero, San Fran - my neighborhood

Hustler vs Manager

I lead a product management community in San Francisco. It is now almost 1,000 members-strong. We organize useful events to promote the craft and career of PM, like this product teardown workshop.

The group adds value for sure (I know because I asked active members). It has been somewhat sleepy though, hosting a speaker event for 50-60 people every few weeks. Growth isn't everything, but I wanted to deliver more value, partly by growing. There are ways to grow a community.

I met with co-organizers over a series of dog-walk and cafe meetings (don't you love San Fran?) and we talked a lot. A lot! We performed analyses, drew up detailed mind diagrams of possible topics, list of potential speakers, division of roles, talked about member reach and engagement.

In other words, we put our product manager hats on, and played product manager until the cowboy rode off into the sunset, eating nachos.

PM Fast Track

Just a delicious sampling of PM Fast Track measurements and analyses.

Guess how many new members we gained after all the hours we spent in this new team effort?

That's right. You guessed it. Zero. Or at least close to it.

I got pretty frustrated, and even as I coached my peers to enable them to be more effective, I stopped talkin’ and got to hustlin.’

To hustle effectively, it really helps to have a system. I'll share more about that system in a separate post - so you can use it to be more effective in your efforts. In the meantime, let me just say it involved having daily goals and building in some accountability. It also involved a lot of creativity, to step outside of the routine of our speaker events, and generating new events like a product teardown workshop.

The thing about new events like that though, is that it has very little to do with product management, and mostly to do with sales. You have to sell the hosts and speakers on the value of the event and why they would benefit from sharing their time and knowledge. I don't need to digress into the particulars of sales versus product management, but the main point I want to convey about hustling in this context is that of inward versus outward effort.

After selling the stakeholders like crazy, I had a few new events up, even ones that sort of scare me, because I am not really ready to lead and host them - like PM career office hours. Still, I am confident it will be useful, because I have much to share, and I excel in bringing people together to help them do more.

When it comes to new, measuring does not help

This should be obvious, but I see many people get caught up in this. To differentiate yourself or your team or product, you can't simply repeat what you have been doing. Because what you have been doing has been copied and commoditized. Rather than actively working to try something different, people love talking about innovation.

You can't measure your way to innovation.

Funny thing about creativity. There is no such thing. You can't talk or measure your way to innovation. Instead, new ideas arise in the course of experiments and conversations with new customers. In other words, good things happen during your hustle. And only when you do.

Hustling is a business strategy

The hustle paid off. In a period of 2 days, between new scheduled events some email blasts, we added close to 30 NEW members. Also, the growth represents an acceleration in the growth curve that should have continuing residual benefits over the next few weeks.

Well, there is a simple solution here, right? You measure AND you hustle. You hustle AND you manage. So, whether you are taking stock of your own effectiveness or your teams, give some thought to these questions.

  • Are you managing or hustling?
  • If you need results, what sort of team member do you need to recruit?
  • How can you get beyond measuring and convert your knowledge into action?
  • Reflect on how vigorous outbound efforts in the past have yielded new insights
  • What are the systems of hustle in your life or in your organization?

Finally, I am not advocating brute force. You can hustle intelligently using many tools (remember the leverage post?). I love how uncanny and insightful Paul Graham is about beating the averages. For us mortals, other wisdoms and systems are offered through sites like AppSumo.

In any event, get off your ass and go do something great!


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David at Crater Lake National Park

A former cube dweller, writing about web products, entrepreneurship, and growth.

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