Master the art of communicating a “positive no”

A chef in his kitchen about to grab the next order slip. For product managers, orders are synonymous with feature requests!
A chef in his kitchen about to grab the next order slip. For product managers, orders are synonymous with feature requests!
Photo by Daniel Bradley on Unsplash

We’ve all seen this: a backlog composed of at least 2 to 3 months of commitments, and a seemingly endless supply of issues and requests coming in from internal and external stakeholders.

You then receive one or more “urgent” or “high priority” issues from your CEO, Sales, or Leadership team, asking for you to stretch your capacity one more time to take on some new item of work.

How can product professionals respond to the ebb and flow of incoming work items and feature requests? …


There is no single template — so where do you start?

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Photo by Slidebean on Unsplash

Suppose that you’ve just joined a company or launched your minimum lovable product to market. You’re beginning to receive fantastic feedback and validation from your clients. Congratulations!

You are now being bombarded with feature requests your customers, partners and suppliers. They are all asking you when you can deliver their requested features, yet some of these features seem less priority than others— so, what do you do?

Perhaps its time to communicate through a product roadmap. Sounds simple enough, but the process is much more nuanced than you first think!

Provided below is a guide to creating your first product…


Don’t wait for leadership to happen. Self-lead instead.

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A photo by Jerry Coli, available at Dreamstime

Newer product managers are often given a specific set of scope to navigate with a focus on product delivery and execution. Tasks usually centre around empathising with customers to understand pain points, specifying product requirements, and hustling and doing whatever necessary to implement to plan.

There comes, however, a point in every product manager’s career path where a broader set of responsibilities are needed. Whether it be more products or features, more relationship management with strategic customers, partners or management teams, a wider remit becomes inevitable. PMs don’t get formal training on how to adapt when this shift in responsibilities…


I’ve made a framework for choosing frameworks. Inception much?

Header Image: Example story mapping using post-it notes
Header Image: Example story mapping using post-it notes
Photo by Daria Nepriakhina on Unsplash

Many product managers “don’t know” or “don’t have” a process for planning and prioritizing initiatives, according to ProductPlan’s 2020 Product Management report. There are a few reasons for this:

  • Many managers simply want to focus on creating value and solutions to problems faced today, not tomorrow.
  • Many managers focus on having quality conversations about what they think is the most important and why, without needing to use any score-based approach.
  • Many products change priorities all the time due to externalities outside of their control, including commercial preferences, legal, regulatory, and customer.
  • There is no one product management prioritization framework that…


Sometimes you shouldn’t play as a Tetris world champion would.

Illustration of a laptop with Tetris tiles falling right to left, on a laptop, with each piece representing a backlog item
Illustration of a laptop with Tetris tiles falling right to left, on a laptop, with each piece representing a backlog item
The dangerous game of product backlog Tetris — Illustration by Andrew Quan

The product backlog is a list of the features, fixes, infrastructure changes or other activities that a team may deliver to achieve a specific outcome. It is known to be the single authoritative source for things that a team works on.

Managing a backlog is often compared to playing the game of Tetris, where work items are seen as incoming blocks that are often unpredictable. …


Know your audience and prepare a compelling narrative

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Photo by Bonneval Sebastien on Unsplash

Have you ever found yourself feeling like you’ve been trying to gain agreement on a significant decision, but you’re getting nowhere?

Have you ever sent communications about a significant project or initiative, with limited to no engagement or reply to your emails or messages?

Have you ever held a meeting with senior leadership or received an unclear action or decision? Or perhaps you’ve just received a generic reply that they would “ think about it and get back to you”?

If you’ve experienced any or all of the situations above, don’t worry; we’ve all been there, but perhaps it’s time…


Mental Health

A simple system to change your relationship with anxiety forever.

Image of a women, on the floor, anxious and stressed
Image of a women, on the floor, anxious and stressed
Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

In the first half of this year, I found myself with a multitude of life changes that caused a great deal of anxiety. I was unable to sleep on hot, restless nights, and I often had a mind racing with a wide variety of unhealthy thoughts:

  • I worried about the pandemic’s impact on our startup’s viability.
  • I worried about the health of myself and my loved ones.
  • I worried about my finances and keeping a roof on top of my head.
  • In short, I worried about everything.

The impact on my physical health was dire. Every night I’d only end…


One does not simply design without team alignment and clarity.

An image of a happy feature kickoff team : product designer, engineer, customer success manager, among others!
An image of a happy feature kickoff team : product designer, engineer, customer success manager, among others!
Design vector created by stories — www.freepik.com

When designing new products, many organisations rely on requirements gathering exercises that often place the onus on a product designer/business analyst/product owner to specify a checklist of features that the technical team needs to build against.

A common method is to write up detailed specifications, hand it over to engineers to get them built, then repeat. This linear and siloed process is also known as a “build trap”, a term popularised by Melissa Perri.

Lobbing detailed specifications over to engineers from afar rarely works well for a few main reasons:

  • Designs made in isolation are often inefficient and incorrect— time…


Play to your strengths, outsource your weaknesses, and partner for insights

Image of contactless payment being  made by a phone, at a retailers tablet based point of sale terminal
Image of contactless payment being  made by a phone, at a retailers tablet based point of sale terminal
Photo by Blake Wisz on Unsplash

Never has there been a better time to build a payments startup. The shift in consumer demands towards digital and contactless payments provides a plethora of opportunities for software solutions to enable all kinds of innovative purchase interactions.

While hundreds of fintech and payment startups are launched each day, each trying to be the next Stripe, Square, PayPal, or Klarna, many don’t make it. According to the Startup Genome, 11 out of 12 (92%) startups fail. According to Failory, the large majority of reasons were related to Product-Market Fit (34%), Marketing (22%), and Team Problems (18%).

With up to 74%…


Check yourself before you wreck yourself

Image of a side hustler: a women working on a phone, laptop, in an artist studio
Image of a side hustler: a women working on a phone, laptop, in an artist studio
Photo by bruce mars on Unsplash

When I decided to get back into writing part-time, I didn’t realise how difficult it would be to manage my expectations relative to those for my actual full-time job. While I easily drew very strict lines between work and side-work, I suffered these three “I”s:

  1. Increased anxiety due to the pressure of keeping to a healthy schedule of personal-growth during isolated lock-down.
  2. Increased fear of missing out, constantly scanning the web for new ideas and personal development topics to help improve me.
  3. Inconsistent eating and sleeping patterns due to both of the above, resulting in an endless unbreakable loop.

Yet…

Andrew Quan

Head of Product @ Littlepay | Writing memos on Product, Leadership, Startups, and the Mind | andrewquan.net

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