How nerf guns taught me focus for building products

I have a nerf gun at my desk. Its standard issue at Atlassian in your welcome pack. I’ve got 6 darts in the chamber. If its a big target (i.e big person), I might need several darts to take them down. When I’ve unloaded all my shots, I have to reload again.

Nerf guns & focus

When building products, you have a certain amount of shots too. You have some specific constraints which are time, money and people. Whether you are building a product for a startup or an established company, you must appreciate that you can’t do everything at once. In every sprint, there’s a certain capacity. You have to pick and choose your battles.

I can’t pack everything in my agile sprint. I have to spread it out between sprints and releases. I can reload my nerf guns at the start of each sprint and shoot again.

One of the challenges for startups is that there are so many opportunities out there. There’s plenty of things you can aim your nerf guns at. But you have finite resources. You have to go after something but it can’t be everything. You have to choose your focus. You can choose to build several average products or one awesome product.

This is the same for product teams in growing and established companies too. If you have product market fit or the available resources, you can go after more things.

When you have have limited shots available, you have to make them count. When time is ticking because your burn rate is limited, you have to make tradeoffs. The risk of doing too much is that you spread yourself too thin. Its a tough balance between focus and opportunity. Its a line that all product managers must tread.

I’m out like your 6 nerf gun shots,
Matt Ho

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