I studied journalism as an undergraduate. Journalism is a great major. It teaches you to write. It keeps you up on current events. And most of all, it provides you with the discipline of meeting deadlines.
Bob Farson was my advisor. He never accepted a late assignment. He never gave an incomplete in a course. It was in on time, or you got an F—no exceptions. Every journalism student in my day heard his mantra over and over again…
“There is no late in journalism. You can’t put out a blank paper. A good reporter will never have everything he wants for a story. You’ve got to learn to go with what you’ve got and do the best job you can with it.”
It’s like that in the pharma and device businesses too. Most product managers always would like to have a little more time, a bigger budget, more market research when launching a new product or coming up with a new campaign.
But there comes a time when you have to go with what you’ve got. I modeled the advice in Tweet 99 in Success Tweets on the notion of going with what you’ve got. “Get the job done with what you’ve got. Don’t worry about what you don’t have or would like to have.” You can download a free copy of Success Tweets at http://budurl.com/STExpl.
I never worked as a journalist, but my journalism education taught me the importance of getting the job done with what I have. That attitude has been very helpful in my life and career. I seldom, if ever, miss deadlines.
When it comes to deadlines, I find that people make two types of mistakes. 1) They miss them because they are always looking for that one additional piece of information that will bring everything together perfectly. 2) They get so focused on making their deadline that they don’t dig deep enough to find all the information they need to do an outstanding job.
Both are problems. You need to find the right balance between gathering all the information you need and still making your deadlines. Avoid problem number one by realizing that you’ll never know everything you want to know about a given subject. Avoid problem number two by not getting overly focused on the deadline. If you do, you run the risk of not doing as good a job as you can on any given project.
Go with what you’ve got only after you’ve done an exhaustive information search to make sure that you have all the information you can possibly find and still make the deadline.
John Miller is a friend of mine. He has written a great little book: QBQ: The Question Behind the Question. Here’s an example of how you can use the QBQ concept.
If you find yourself needing information or materials to get a job done right, don’t ask, “Why won’t people give me what I need to do my job?” Instead ask yourself, “How can I get what I need to get this job done right and on time?” The first question leads you down the victim path. The second question puts you in charge. When you think that way you’ll be better able to go with what you’ve got to get the job done well.
Like much of my advice it all comes down to taking personal responsibility for yourself and your work. It’s simple common sense. Taking personal responsibility for getting the job done—with what you have, not what you want—will set you apart from the pack and put you on the road to product management success.