20 Product Shreyas Doshi on The Three Different Types of Product Leaders and How To Hire Them, The 6 Different Product Metrics You Need To Know and What Good is For Each of Them & Table Stakes Features vs Wow Features; What To Prioritise



In this episode of "20 Product," host Harry Stebbings interviews Shreyas Doshi, a seasoned product leader with a distinguished background at companies like Stripe, Twitter, and Google. Doshi shares his insights on product management, emphasizing it as the art, science, and practice of creating successful products and making products successful through user adoption, customer satisfaction, and business impact. He introduces his BTD framework (Below, To, Differentiate) for strategic product development, particularly in crowded markets, and stresses the importance of founders' involvement in defining core product metrics. Doshi also categorizes product leaders into three archetypes—Operator, Craftsperson, and Visionary—highlighting their unique strengths and advising founders to choose hires based on their startup's stage and needs. Throughout the conversation, Doshi underscores the significance of understanding customer motivation and aligning product strategy accordingly, while also advocating for founders to prioritize competence and team-building ability when selecting product leaders.

Summary Notes

Introduction to 20 Product and Shreyas Doshi

  • Harry Stebbings hosts the monthly show 20 Product, featuring interviews with leading product minds.
  • Shreyas Doshi is an investor, advisor, and product expert with experience at Stripe, Twitter, and Google.
  • Shreyas has helped grow product management teams and has invested in and advises companies like Airtable and Lendflow.
  • Builder AI and Uxcam are recommended tools for building software and mobile app user analytics.

"I'm so excited for the show today. I'm one of the biggest fans of this guest on Twitter. Their threads on all things product are legendary and if you haven't checked them out then it really is a must."

The quote expresses Harry Stebbings' enthusiasm for having Shreyas Doshi on the show, highlighting Doshi's reputation in the product management community.

Shreyas Doshi's Career Journey

  • Shreyas Doshi started as an engineer in Silicon Valley during difficult times in 2001.
  • He was introduced to product management through customer interviews and meetings.
  • Realizing his interest in solving customer problems creatively, he transitioned to product management without pursuing an MBA.
  • Shreyas joined Yahoo in 2006, marking the beginning of his product management career.

"I found myself getting very interested in learning about what customers are doing with the product, particularly coming up with more creative solutions about to solve the customer problems."

This quote explains Shreyas Doshi's early interest in understanding customer interactions with products and his inclination towards creative problem-solving, leading him to a career in product management.

Defining Product Management

  • Product management involves creating successful products and making existing products successful.
  • Success in product management is measured by user adoption, customer satisfaction, and business impact.
  • Metrics can vary based on the product and its stage, but these three elements are fundamental for evaluating success.

"Product management is the art, science and practice of making successful products and making products successful."

The quote succinctly defines product management as a multifaceted discipline that focuses on both the creation of new products and the improvement of existing ones.

The Importance of Metrics in Product Management

  • Metrics are crucial but often misunderstood in product management.
  • There are six categories of product metrics: health, usage, adoption, satisfaction, ecosystem, and outcome metrics.
  • Adoption metrics are outcomes of other conditions and activities, and teams should focus on the inputs that lead to adoption, such as usage metrics.

"Adoption doesn't happen on its own. There need to be certain conditions that preconditions that need to be satisfied so you can get to adoption."

The quote emphasizes that user adoption is not a standalone event but the result of fulfilling certain preconditions, highlighting the importance of understanding and measuring the right inputs.

Health Metrics in Product Management

  • Health metrics, or hygiene metrics, ensure the product is available and performing as users expect.
  • Examples include latency, load time, data loss rate, and error rates.
  • While not directly driving business, poor health metrics can significantly impede progress.

"Is this product available and performing in the manner that users would reasonably expect?"

The quote captures the essence of health metrics, which are about maintaining the expected performance and reliability of a product.

Misunderstood Metric Categories

  • The North Star metric (NSM) is often misunderstood; it's not a cure-all and doesn't need to be perfect, especially for early-stage products.
  • Early-stage startups should focus on whether the product resonates rather than perfecting their NSM.
  • Time should be spent improving the product and relevant metrics instead of fixating on the perfect NSM.

"Finding the perfect metric as your NSM is actually not necessary, especially when you're early stage."

This quote advises against the pursuit of a perfect North Star metric for early-stage products, suggesting that a general, measurable metric is sufficient.

Importance of Qualitative Feedback for Early Stage Products

  • Qualitative feedback is crucial for early-stage product development.
  • Metrics are important, but they should be complemented with user insights.
  • A simple feedback form can provide invaluable user empathy and insights.
  • A routine of reviewing user feedback can enhance understanding beyond what metrics show.

"You're going to get a lot more signal from the qualitative inputs than you are simply from your North Star metric."

This quote emphasizes the value of qualitative feedback over quantitative metrics alone, especially for early-stage products.

Determining the North Star Metric

  • The founder's competence in product matters influences who should define the North Star metric.
  • Founders must be involved in setting and tracking this top-level metric, regardless of their competence level.
  • The responsibility can be delegated, but the founder's involvement is crucial.

"Do you feel competent enough to do it? That's the main question."

Shreyas Doshi suggests that the founder's self-assessment of competence is key to deciding who should determine the North Star metric.

Three Types of Product Leader Personas

  • There are three product leader personas: the operator, the craftsperson, and the visionary.
  • Each persona has a primary 'hat' or role they are most comfortable with.
  • Founders should understand their business needs to identify the right persona for their team.

"One of the patterns is the three types of product leaders, and they are the operator, the craftsperson, and the visionary."

Shreyas Doshi introduces the three distinct product leader personas, highlighting the importance of understanding each to make informed hiring decisions.

The Operator Persona

  • Operators are skilled at scaling teams, driving alignment, and unblocking execution.
  • Their communication skills are their superpower.
  • They may lack original product insight, which can be a challenge.

"The operator's superpower is communication."

This quote highlights the operator's key strength, which is vital for scaling and aligning teams within an organization.

Transition to Needing an Operator

  • The need for an operator arises post-product market fit as the product and organization scale.
  • Operators excel in managing cross-organizational complexity and alignment.
  • The transition is not tied to funding rounds but to the growth and complexity of the product and organization.

"It's definitely post product market fit."

Shreyas Doshi specifies when a startup typically requires an operator, linking it to the stage of product market fit and organizational growth.

The Craftsperson Persona

  • Craftspeople excel in defining product strategy and mentoring product teams.
  • They have a superpower in product insight and translating ambiguous goals into concrete products.
  • They may struggle with managing large organizations and prefer spending time with users and the product team.

"Their superpower is product insight."

This quote identifies the craftsperson's main strength, which is crucial for turning high-level visions into tangible products.

Hiring the First CPO/Head of Product

  • The craftsperson is a reasonable default for early-stage startups, especially those pre- or post-product market fit.
  • Founders must assess what they want to delegate and whether it aligns with hiring a craftsperson.
  • Depending on the founder's competencies, they may choose to retain certain responsibilities while delegating others.

"Being the craftsperson, that is a reasonable default, especially if you're early stage."

Shreyas Doshi advises that for early-stage startups, a craftsperson is often the most suitable first senior product hire, given their product insight and strategy skills.

Challenges in Scaling Product Teams

  • As product teams grow, challenges arise both within the team and in cross-functional dynamics.
  • Scaling requires attention to maintaining team cohesion and managing increased organizational complexity.

"There are two core things that tend to break across most situations."

Shreyas Doshi points out the two main challenges faced by scaling product teams, highlighting the need for careful management during growth.

Scaling a Team and Its Challenges

  • As a team grows, personal relationships and trust become harder to maintain.
  • Larger teams require a shift from personal interactions to broad communications.
  • Repeating the vision, goals, and strategy is essential for alignment.
  • Craftspeople may struggle with this shift as they prefer intimate product involvement.
  • Scaling introduces dependencies and alignment issues with other departments.
  • Product leaders spend more time in meetings resolving these issues.
  • Craftspeople may become frustrated with excessive meetings and seek more hands-on roles.

"If you're managing a team of 25 people, you can have a sort of personal relationship... Now your team is 50 people... Or like the team is 80 people, right?... So you need to change your approach."

This quote explains the necessity of changing management approach as a team grows beyond a size where personal relationships can be effectively maintained.

"Now, instead of relying on one to one or one to few interactions, you have to rely on one to many interactions, but people don't remember as much as we think they remember."

The quote emphasizes the need for one-to-many communication strategies in larger teams and the importance of repetition for message retention.

The Visionary Profile

  • Visionaries are rare and excel at big picture thinking and inventing the future.
  • A visionary's superpower is seeing what others cannot.
  • Competent visionaries are distinguished by their accuracy in predicting future trends.
  • Visionaries may struggle to translate their vision into actionable product steps.
  • Visionaries benefit from collaboration with craftspeople who can operationalize the vision.

"The visionary is excellent at big picture thinking, inventing what's next and their superpower, being that they can see what others cannot see..."

This quote defines the visionary as someone with the unique ability to foresee and invent future possibilities that are not apparent to others.

"But this is true, as far as I've seen, is you're just more right about where the world is headed."

The quote suggests that the key difference between competent and incompetent visionaries is the former's accuracy in predicting the direction of the world.

The Founder and CPO Dynamic

  • Typically, one founder embodies the visionary role.
  • Visionaries may also take on the craftsperson role but can struggle as the product scales.
  • User feedback can challenge a visionary's clear view of the future.
  • A craftsperson is valuable in translating vision into product development steps.

"On founding teams, I've found that it's usually one of the founders that's the visionary."

This quote identifies the common scenario where one founder naturally assumes the visionary role within a startup.

"The visionary has a very clear view of the future, but being responsible people, they also now take into account user and customer feedback."

The quote explains the tension visionaries face between their clear vision for the future and the need to integrate user feedback.

Customer Feedback vs. Product Roadmap

  • Teams must balance being customer-driven with following a core strategy.
  • Strategy guides when to heed customer feedback and when to pursue the roadmap.
  • The BTD framework helps decide when to meet, exceed, or fall below customer expectations.
  • Strategy-driven teams can better navigate feature requests and differentiation.

"So the strategy becomes the piece, the artifact, the guideline for when you listen to customers and when you don't listen to customers."

The quote highlights the importance of having a clear strategy to determine when customer feedback should influence product decisions.

"I have this framework called the BTD framework... You decide whether you want to come in below table stakes, at table stakes, or actually want to differentiate."

The BTD framework is introduced as a tool for making strategic decisions about product features in response to customer requests and market positioning.

Targeting Customer Segments for Startups

  • Startups should target dissatisfied customer segments within crowded markets.
  • Identifying unfulfilled needs allows for creating a differentiated experience.
  • Clear focus on specific segments can lead to a compelling product offering.

"When you are entering a fairly crowded space where maybe there's a very powerful incumbent, the customer segment you target becomes really important."

This quote advises startups to carefully choose their target customer segment, especially in markets with strong incumbents.

"And that's where I like companies that are very clear on targeting certain segments and then creating highly differentiated experience."

The quote expresses a preference for companies that focus on creating unique experiences for specific customer segments, leading to differentiation in the market.

Product Differentiation and Customer Needs

  • Targeting a specific segment and meeting their unmet needs can lead to differentiation.
  • Surpassing basic expectations ("table stakes") can make customers overlook other conventional features.
  • Products that perform exceedingly well on a core use case will be favored by customers even if they have to endure some shortcomings elsewhere.

"When you target a specific segment and meet their unfulfilled needs in surprising ways, and you go way above table stakes, you differentiate."

This quote emphasizes the importance of not just meeting the basic expectations but exceeding them to stand out in the market, particularly for a specific customer segment.

Angel Investing and Founder Assessment

  • The initial attraction to an idea is not sufficient for successful angel investing.
  • The primary focus has shifted to assessing the quality and capability of the founder(s).
  • A key question is whether the founder is among the most capable people encountered and if they can build a top-notch team.

"The core thing that matters is how great is this founder?"

This quote highlights the realization that the potential of the founder is a critical factor in the success of a startup, more so than the initial idea itself.

The Collisons' Profiles

  • Patrick Collison is seen as a visionary craftsperson, focused on big ideas and user experience.
  • John Collison is versatile, capable of fulfilling various roles effectively, including interim management of different teams.

"Patrick is very much a visionary craftsperson... John is harder for me because I've seen him kind of do each of these three, and not just do each of these three, but actually just enjoy doing it."

The quote describes the distinct roles and skills of the Collison brothers, with Patrick being the visionary and John as the adaptable operator.

Time to Value in Customer Experience

  • Core customer motivation and available alternatives influence the acceptable length of time to value.
  • Mandate products, like Workday or Netsuite, can afford a longer time to value due to their established credibility and executive mandates.
  • Marketing, branding, and positioning can also affect the acceptable time to value.

"When the core customer motivation is extremely high, you can afford to lenden that time to value."

This quote suggests that the urgency of a customer's need can allow for a longer time to value, especially if the product is mandated or has strong market positioning.

Product Mindset Shifts and Hiring Mistakes

  • Recently changed views on the role of metrics and the types of metrics that matter.
  • Founders often make mistakes by overvaluing background and underestimating their instincts when hiring product executives.

"They overemphasize background, resume, titles and companies that the executive has worked at."

The quote indicates a common hiring pitfall where founders focus too much on the past achievements of a candidate rather than their potential and fit for the role.

Advice for New Product Leaders

  • New product leaders should focus on understanding customers and the domain.
  • Building strong relationships across the organization is crucial from the start.
  • Don't rush to create value; understand that it's a long-term game.

"Focus on understanding the customer and the domain extremely well."

This quote advises new product leaders to prioritize deep knowledge of their customers and industry to create lasting value.

Personal Strengths and Weaknesses

  • Shreyas Doshi identifies his product sense as his biggest strength.
  • His biggest weakness was not effectively communicating his team's progress to the broader organization.

"Biggest strength was product sense... Biggest weakness was about making the broad organization aware about all the progress that my team and my product was making."

The quote reflects a self-assessment of strengths and areas for improvement, highlighting the importance of both product intuition and internal communication.

Impressive Company Product Strategy

  • Lead School's strategy to bring high-quality education to smaller towns in India is notable.
  • The approach combines curriculum, technology, and operations to achieve educational parity.

"They are bringing high quality, really high quality school k through twelve education to smaller towns and smaller cities."

This quote showcases admiration for Lead School's mission and strategy to democratize access to quality education in India.

Closing Remarks

  • The conversation acknowledges the depth of product knowledge and the enjoyment of the discussion.
  • A potential for a future follow-up conversation is mentioned.

"This was a blast and looking forward to our next chat."

The quote captures the positive sentiment and mutual interest in continuing the dialogue on product-related topics.

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