Product development: the power of NO

The power of NO

Successful leaders understand the importance of saying no.

Steve Jobs said, “Success comes from saying no to 1000 things to make sure we don’t get on the wrong track or try to do too much.”

It’s echoed in this great video by Spotify guru Henrik Kniberg, “No is the most important word for a product owner… The most important job for a product owner is to decide what NOT to build”.

Tony Blair said, “The art of leadership is about saying no”.

The agile manifesto says, “Simplicity–the art of maximizing the amount
of work not done–is essential”.

The problem with NO

Saying no is hard.

As Steve Jobs said, “When you say no you piss people off”.

Henrik Kniberg says, “it’s tough, but who said Agile was easy”.

Making NO easier

At Metro we’ve introduced a “1 in, 1 out” rule. For every new feature we add, we have to remove an old feature. This has two benefits:

  1. It forces people to think harder about how much value the new feature will add.
  2. It highlights that many old features we thought would be successful, were complete flops. It teaches us some humility.

This is especially important for non-developers. It’s hard to say no to an idea when you don’t understand the complexities of delivering it.

A bumpy road

So far, the dev team has done too much of the decision making about what features to remove.

Going forward, we want whoever requests the feature (often Alex or Jessie) to make the decision.

The bonus

As a bonus, “1 in 1 out” helps make our code more maintainable – it reduces the “drag” of having lots of old code. We’ve accumulated over a thousand features over the years, so the drag can really slow the team down.


Categorized as Agile

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