Why time to celebration lunch matters

Its the festive season, so my stomach is feeling bloated already from Halloween parties, Thanksgiving feasts and the upcoming Christmas period. Shoutout to 7 slices of sweet potato/pumpkin/apple/cherry pie I’ve eaten in the last 3 days.

Today my readers I write to you about my latest product management thoughts on “time to celebration lunch” (TTCL). Its about prioritising based on the shortest path to a celebration lunch.

Lets discuss this from first principles. First principles are fundamental assumptions that a theory are based from.

First principles of time to celebration lunch

1. Everyone loves free food
Need I say more?

2. Everyone loves to celebrate success.
My Facebook feed is full of birthday pics, wedding videos, graduations, babies being born, startups securing funding / that big deal, house warming for moving into a new place, buying a new property, puppies being born, etc.. When we achieve something, we want to express our joy, bring people together and share that positive moment in our lives. Then you post a selfie on Snap / Insta / Facebook.

3. Lack of momentum kills products, kill teams, kills entire businesses.
The ability to ship customer value on a consistent basis is a key advantage in a business. This is becauseĀ cadence is king. The ability to ship fast allows you to repair critical bugs in hours instead of weeks, to respond to customer feedback, to respond to competitive threats and take advantage of opportunities.

Why celebration lunch matters

In the past, I’ve organised dinners and lunches for Christmas for my team. So when I started as a product manager, I wanted to do the same thing. Lets do it – everyone else is doing it! It’d be nice for the team I said. However, having spoken to the development manager, their preference was to organise lunch to reward the team for shipping something. We were close to shipping something, so I agreed to it. We’d done it before for shipping a big feature and then we organised another one for shipping the android app.

When I joined my new team, I implemented the same thing. We shipped some huge customer value. It was the new login in Atlassian mobile apps. It made it easier to login as it removed a step in logging in which was entering your URL. So I did what I had done before which was to organise a celebration lunch. I gave a short speech to recognise the team’s efforts which was huge. I then mentioned the next milestone we were going for, which the team was already aware of.

This is not to say that we don’t celebrate Christmas or the festive season with a lunch. But the picture we want to paint is one of intentional design, which is celebrating momentum. Not because we’re late in the year. Rather, that we’re shipped some significant customer value which the team will celebrate. We want to celebrate success.

Why momentum matters

As a product manager, you’re a product picker. You decide on the order of priorities. Timing is everything. You need to understand the sequence, the dependencies, and what matters to customers and what matters to the market.

Momentum drives teams. It uplifts them when they can see their work ship out the door and impact customer’s lives.

Momentum engages customers. Their experience changes. Their workflow becomes easier or that critical bug is fixed before it reaches everyone. When customers see that their experience is improving and getting better, they use the product more. They can see that new updates are coming on a regular basis. They tell their friends about it. They refer the product to their coworkers and friends. Momentum matters.

As a product picker, you need to maintain momentum. You need to ship customer value on a consistent basis. It needs to lead to an inspiring and captivating story for the customer. We are building scenes in a movie, with scenes that fit together and lead to a logical path to the bigger picture.

Why time to celebration lunch matters

When I decided to pick the next thing that my team would work on, it was the next milestone that delivered customer value that was aligned with our mission AND was achievable in a short period of time. I prefer to select something that was 2 – 3 months away rather than 6 months away. 6 months is an eternity in the development of products. In a startup or a fast growing tech company, it can be the difference between life or death. So I wanted to pick the shortest time to a celebration lunch.

This is not to say that we don’t go for big changes in a product. We do. It means that you need to break it down into logical phases. Its easier to go for several milestones then one huge thing. We build and ship incrementally. So the team maintains momentum and customers see value being delivered regularly. You can have your celebration lunch and eat it too.

You shouldn’t be waiting months to ship value either. My team will ask at the start of each sprint, “what customer value are we shipping at the end of this sprint”?. This mentality will help transform teams to get out new experiences, features and bug fixes to customers. It might take several sprints to build up to the big picture, but that’s ok since you’re shipping value regularly.

So product managers, I implore you to celebrate with your teams and to do it often šŸ™‚

Is your next celebration lunch 2 months away or 12 months away? Pick the things that are achievable within the shortest time frame and deliver customer value. Then pick the venue for your celebration lunch. As the time to celebration lunch matters.

I’m out like Thanksgiving,
Matthew Ho

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