The eighteenth episode of The Product Management Leaders Podcast is now live!
Our aim with this podcast is to connect you with some of the top PM leaders and share their real-world strategies and tactics for building world-class products.
In today's episode, Grant Duncan speaks with Mayank Yadav, product lead at Facebook and Instagram Shops. He was instrumental in creating the Product Manifesto that you've hopefully heard of. Our guest has vast experience in building marketplaces and scaling them globally, from Facebook to being one of the first PMs at Uber, and with other examples, like eBay and Handy. Let's get into it.
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Grant Duncan (00:05):
This is the Product Management Leaders Podcast in which you hear from some of the top PM leaders about their real world strategies and tactics for building world class products. It's sponsored by Voximplant, the leading serverless communications platform and no-code drag and drop contact center solution. Voximplant enables product leaders and developers to integrate communications into their products such as embedding voice, video, SMS, in-app chat and natural language processing. Join over 30,000 businesses trusting Voximplant. Now, let's jump into the show.
Grant Duncan (00:41):
Hey, it's Grant Duncan, your host. Today, I'm speaking with Mayank Yadav, product lead at Facebook and Instagram Shops. He was instrumental in creating the Product Manifesto that you've hopefully heard of. Our guest has vast experience in building marketplaces and scaling them globally, from Facebook to being one of the first PMs at Uber, and with other examples, like eBay and Handy. Let's get into it.
Grant Duncan (01:07):
Hi, Mayank, it's great to have you on the Product Management Leaders Podcast today. To start, could you introduce yourself to people?
Mayank Yadav (01:14):
Yeah, sure. Great to be here. I'm Mayank, I'm a product manager at Facebook. I've worked for about 10, 11 years now, building products for eBay, Uber, startups in New York, and Handy, and now with Facebook, building mostly zero to one products. Super excited to be here and talk about product today.
Grant Duncan (01:32):
So one of the big things that you've been working on is the Product Manifesto. Can you give people an overview about that in case they're not familiar?
Mayank Yadav (01:42):
Yeah, absolutely. Product Manifesto ... I mean, let me give you the why of it, then we come to the what. We came as a group of some PM leaders from different companies, Google, Microsoft, Facebook, Amazon, and startups, come together, and the idea was there's lots of definitions of product management in different parts of the world, specifically. I forget the Silicon Valley companies for a moment because well, people have adopted the best practices. So the idea was can we standardize product management principles in a way where people can take actionable learnings from it and get better in building products, can get better as product managers, can get better as product leaders, can get better as product organization builders?
Mayank Yadav (02:29):
So we've taken that motivation and come up with a list of 10 principles, what we call the Product Manifesto, which are actionable, which have case studies attached to every principle to help PMs, to help aspiring PMs, to help leaders use those principles and get better at the job and build better products. So that's what Product Manifesto is all about. You can check out the link on productmanifesto.com, one word, to learn about that.
Grant Duncan (03:00):
Yeah, I think it's a great list and super helpful for people. I've seen a lot of feedback online about the value of it. What would you say was a tough one to agree upon?
Mayank Yadav (03:08):
What was the tough one to agree upon? Well, to be fair, the top 10 is what you see today. When we started, it's important to know how we got to where we are to understand what is a tough one. It was also very similar to how you build a product. If you think of the reality, we will have 10 people thinking about what can we create that'll help product managers, leaders get better and build better products? We started with the problem, which is what are the problems these people are facing today? What are leaders facing today? What are aspiring PMs facing today? What are mid level PMs facing today? The list of those challenges was not 10. It was about 30. So the toughest problem was to ... we can't talk about 30 problems. Prioritization is one of the most important aspects of product management.
Mayank Yadav (04:09):
So the toughest part was really synthesizing or shortening those 30 or 40 challenges into the first, I would say, 15 challenges. Then from 15, how can you pick 10? Because everyone thinks everything is important, which it's not. So I think we really applied the principles in our manifesto process of first going with the why, defining the problems, figuring out which is the most important, prioritize, and then think about some solutions which became principles for PM. So I think the hardest part was prioritization of those 40 questions or challenges we came up with. By the way, it's not my doing it. It was a community. We were a group of 10 people. After every milestone, we went to the audience, to the PMs, and got their feedback. Do you agree these are top 20 questions or challenges we face? Do you agree that these are the top 15 we believe and are the right ones to focus on?
Mayank Yadav (05:08):
So it was more of a process that we went through, but getting feedback in the process, doing a stress test within ourselves helped us go from 40 to 10. But that was the hardest problem, to be honest.
Grant Duncan (05:22):
Yeah, I can imagine that would be tough. Did the Agile manifesto or any other manifestos influence your thinking or structure of it?
Mayank Yadav (05:34):
I think we were influenced or motivated by different things. Different people in the group were motivated by different things. Some of us came from a perspective that there was an Agile manifesto. Can we have something similar for product management? I was from a school of thought where I have been mentoring so many PMs, I have been mentoring so many startups, I can see a lack in structure, which if you just share some thoughts, the structure gets better. So my motivation was primarily, "Can we standardize product thinking at least better than where we are today?" Some were like, "Can I myself get better and build something that I will personally use?" So I don't think there's one thing that influenced all of us, but group of 10, 12 that we were, different things motivated different people in the group.
Grant Duncan (06:25):
You talked about, in the beginning, that a lot of your work at Facebook has been about zero to one products, can you share differences you see in taking products zero to one, versus others already at one or beyond and scaling those?
Mayank Yadav (06:42):
Oh, what a great question, Grant. Love it. Let me think about that. Let's start with the top three differences, which I think are very fundamental, and by the way, the differences keep changing as the product grows from stage A to B and so on and so forth, and it converges because then it becomes a large product, right? So talk about the first one year to two years of the zero to one product journey that is different from an established product. Okay. Let's start there. First is, nobody understands the opportunity. Nobody understands how to express the problem/the opportunity and evaluate it.
Mayank Yadav (07:22):
So let's take an example. When we were building Facebook Marketplace and the goal was we were seeing a lot of people renting out long term homes or short term homes through Facebook or selling cars through Facebook groups specifically. Can we create a better experience for them by building a home within Facebook Marketplace? So in classic business language, you call it verticalization of a marketplace, right? You create a vertical, you go deep into it, you build custom experience, make it amazing for buyers to search, get to what they're looking for, boom, and the transaction happens. Buying a car or renting out a home and so on and so forth.
Mayank Yadav (08:00):
Great, good motivation. We all believe in it. But then as a product leader, product manager of all that product, how do you create the structure to define progress towards a goal? So what is a goal and how do you create a structure to get there? We don't know what success means for a real estate product. I have never built one, nor has Facebook done marketplace for homes or for cars. Step one was to understand the ecosystem. How is the market designed? Who are the players in the market? What does the market share? What does the user experience require? What does the user journey? That is different for zero to one product versus an established product where all of this is taken care of. You know the market, you know the user, you have to now figure out how to grow or make it better versus starting from zero and defining the ecosystem, defining both sides of the ecosystem, demand, supply structure, layers within the ecosystem, where homes come from owners, from agents, from agencies, from property management companies.
Mayank Yadav (09:02):
So what is the ecosystem? So I think a lot of “understand” work goes into a zero to one product before it's even ready to build something, and that starts a very strong foundation. That work, I would say, happens less for an established product. So that's number one. I would say upfront, understand work very heavy on product management strategy and research that goes into it. Okay. Number two is you will always fight headwind of resourcing. You haven't proven anything. There is no success story behind you that can say that yes, you will succeed so here are a hundred engineers to go build something. How do you create a narrative, a story that helps you get the right amount of funding and show progress towards a destination. It's very hard. I mean, it's impossible because there's ... Again, let's say you are working on Spotify, I'm making an example, and you've launched the explorer feature or discover feature. It's been one year and you're seeing progress towards monthly active users going up, listening time going up.
Mayank Yadav (10:12):
When you come and pitch a new product to improve that, you have history behind that, you have a metric that you're chasing and you know you can get funded. For zero to one, what's the story? Well, I'll go compete the top two in the market. Let's say for cars, you'll pick the top two players and say, "Well, we will go and provide a better experience than them." But nobody knows if it’s successful or not, so it's very hard to get funding. So you are always fighting the funding game, and that's where the art comes in, of how do you motivate the team in a way, a small SWAT team, a small team of five engineers, deliver wonders, can deliver results that are unimaginable for a team of five?
Mayank Yadav (10:56):
That's where the PM and you and the team focuses on a mission versus just a number that drives you to the next direction. So I think resourcing is hard and the way that tests your PM skills is that mission driven approach of a very small team delivering big, impactful milestone driven approach. So that's number two, is resource is always scarce. In this case, very scarce. I'm sure a PM of a large team will also say the same thing, "I'm always resource constrained," but it's different from, "I need 20 more people. I have 15," versus, "I have zero. I need seven to bootstrap my zero to one product." So that's number two. Just add to that also, it's not just engineering. You need, let's say, marketing. Nobody is going to give you marketing resources when you're MVPing. You have nothing.
Mayank Yadav (11:47):
So PM does everything, the market. You have no research. I was traveling... I'll give you an example. When we first expanded home rentals from U.S. to the UK, so the way it works is you need people in the market to help you get the businesses or the agencies or real estate companies to list on your platform along with users, renting out their homes like a Zillow or a StreetEasy or a Craigslist. So you need people on the ground to also bring these large businesses or small businesses onboard. We had nobody there. So I flew to multiple countries to figure out which countries fit for us from a supply standpoint, pitch it to different people, to platforms or property management companies to convince them, "Please work with us."
Mayank Yadav (12:30):
Now that's not a job of a PM, but I did that and I thoroughly enjoyed that. So I think resources of different kinds will be always a constraint, so you'll really wear multiple hats in zero to one. I'm telling you now I work on a larger ... it became a mature product. It was always structured. We had people in London. We had people in Sao Paulo, Singapore, India, and they're doing this thing. So that's another difference. Resources are constraints. Number one was you have to do a lot of understand work in zero to one. Number two is resource. Then it comes to number three. Number three is showing momentum is the only way to survive and the biggest mistake we do is think about a big number. It's easy to sell a dream with a big number. I will go capture the market in one year time and people in the beginning believe in it because, fine, it's a bet. So you take a bet and you move on.
Mayank Yadav (13:23):
But the reality is you can never hit the market numbers in one year time and that's where it becomes challenging because you're fighting something that is not achievable, but you've already sold someone that dream. So I think a zero to one always becomes a milestone driven product versus a number driven product, and that's where an art comes in. What is a milestone? Why does a milestone matter? So as a product manager, you have to really define critical milestones and sell it in a way where it matters, where people understand. So for instance, if you say, "I'm launching a product for one year," nobody gives a shit about that. Really. It's nothing. But if you say that, "I will build a product. In the first phase, I will have about 10,000 sellers on my platform." Let's say your building it for cars.
Mayank Yadav (14:16):
"I'll have 10,000 cars on the platform only in the Bay Area." Example. "The next half I will have 10,000 cars per city in the next 20 cities, and the next half I'll be seeing about, let's say, 5,000 cars being sold on a platform." Now it sounds really logical when I talk about this supply-supply transaction, but if you don't talk about this, people start talking about only one thing. How many cars have you sold from on a platform after six months of launch? But that should not be the goal, right? The goal should be supply. So a zero to one product always faces the dilemma impact versus milestone and that's where you focus on milestone and give a frame of reference at different stages, and as the product keeps growing and maturing, that frame of reference keeps changing. So that goal-setting becomes an art.
Mayank Yadav (15:13):
So in zero to one product, goal-setting is super, super difficult and you have to be super smart about how you said that. A milestone driven approach is an answer to that versus a random number, which is a transaction number in this specific situation. So yeah, in summary, “understanding” work is super important upfront, second would be about hiring is always a challenge, and third is setting goals as an art is very hard for zero to one. Use the milestone driven approach to get there. All right, that's your answer, Grant.
Grant Duncan (15:46):
That's an awesome answer. I think people are going to really take away those three points. You hit on some great things there, even on the last one, as an example, making milestones instead of just one big lofty goal also is going to make it easier for your leadership team to buy in because they'll see intermediate progress. They won't just see like, "Hey, here's some number we have to check in a year or two from now." It's like you can see something tangible. So that's great.
Mayank Yadav (16:22):
Grant Duncan (16:23):
Yeah. Something else, I think. As you were talking about the second point there, it made me think of the innovators dilemma in larger companies, like how do you get funding for these zero to one ideas? The idea that oftentimes it is easier for that product making the incremental change like you talked about in the Shopify example, versus something totally new, zero to one to get funded. How do you think companies should think about prioritizing a mix of incremental improvements in their funding strategy or funding portfolio compared to zero to one ideas, and in the context of larger companies?
Mayank Yadav (17:12):
See, look, I think it's not about how companies think about what percentage should go to zero to one versus what should go to an established product. It's primarily about impact, how much impact can X product create versus Y product. That's how I think about the portfolio, to your point. So if you think that we have a very stable ... Okay, let me put it this way. Google Search, just an example, right? Google Search generates I think 80 to 85%. I think it's 90% of Google's revenue. Now, that'll require maybe 80% of your resources. It might require 30% of your resources. I'm not sure of what the cost is. You cannot reduce that. This is your lifeline and you have to keep investing in it for reliability, for improvements, for some innovation there.
Mayank Yadav (18:13):
Within Google Search, there'll be bets you will make. 70% bet will go into focusing on the core products that you have. Generally 30% is a good way to think about new bets. Now, new bets could be brand new zero to one products or a new bet could be derivatives of existing products. But 70/30 is a good rule, a good sort of split to think about as you think about investments from a bets perspective, which means 70% is guaranteed results, I will get ROI, and 30% is where I'll play a game of high risk, high reward, and possibly could be zero to one, or it could be derivative of existing products and start from some base and make a ... I would say marginal sort of game there, but some difference in terms of not zero to one, but built on top of what you have, but a different product. Makes sense?
Grant Duncan (19:15):
Yep. Yeah. That's a good framework for people to think about. Can you talk about the org structure you have in your team now and also who are your key collaborators?
Mayank Yadav (19:29):
Yeah, I think it doesn't matter what's now versus later. Let me put a general framework of teams that I've worked with.
Grant Duncan (19:36):
Mayank Yadav (19:37):
The interesting piece has been my teams are primarily evolved from zero to one to middle stage team to mature team. So it keeps changing. If I take a team at a stable state, which would be primarily ... let's say not zero to one, but let's say one year after zero to one. Because I work on marketplace/commerce type of products, the configuration is a little bit more extended than what a traditional product team would be. So let me start there. So I've also shared this about what I call a startup product team and then starter plus some more cross functions based on what you are solving as a product manager.
Mayank Yadav (20:20):
So the start product team would be PM, EM, that's your engineering manager, designer, content strategist, data scientist, and researcher. This is a starter product team. Why do you need all of them? They all bring different strengths to the team. If you don't have one, there's no way a product team can operate well. I mean, you cannot even skip one of them. Let's say you don't have a researcher, you'll never have that qualitative users voice coming into the room. If you don't have a DS, you'll always make anecdotal or research driven decisions. Not wrong, but not scalable in the long term. If you don't have the EM, you cannot think about the engineering scalability or engineering solution when you think about that. If you don't have the content strategists, you'll not think about the framing of it in the beginning of the product. So it's a very good starter team. All right? So this is the first one.
Mayank Yadav (21:16):
Now in my team, we are a commerce product, so we need to go beyond that a little bit. So we also have what we called ... Let's call it a strategy person. They help you go deeper into the market. They help you understand how's the market designed, what is the ecosystem layer? So in the zero to one, you won't have this person, but you'll have it in the middle stage of the team. So we call it BPM, business product marketing, and some teams call it strategy person or product strategy and so and so forth. They are a part of your team. They're core team. They're not like some consultants sitting outside. They're really your team. Then we have one more person that is sitting inside the core team, I would say, which is we call them partnerships folks, or you can call them operations in some companies. Like Uber has operations.
Mayank Yadav (21:57):
In our team, they're embedded, they're part of the team. So for instance, if you have to onboard more car dealerships, what is your strategy? How do you bring them to your platform? Will it be hand to hand handholding, will it be API integration? Will it be a self-serve flow? This person thinks about the strategy. This person thinks about the value we create and that's our team today. This is a high level structure. Then of course, the EM has an engineering team under the person. The designer may have a few more designers if they want, and a tree can span out from there. That's the core team. All right? Then you have support layers, the legal teams that support you because legal supports horizontally across different teams. I'll skip that part, but that's another discussion we can go into, but that's how the core team is structured, starting from starter, plus adding another layer of domain expertise, if you will, based on what problem you're solving.
Grant Duncan (23:00):
Yeah. How do you like the product manager to function in those core teams in relation to the others?
Mayank Yadav (23:07):
Yeah. Again, people make it a big deal on how PMs should think about operating in the team or what is the mindset you bring with, or what is the structure you should follow? Listen. I'm a firm believer of just do the right thing. What's the right thing? The right thing is it's not your idea. It's the team's idea. We collectively think about a problem, but the core of a product manager or any leader ... Forget product manager. Any leader, is focusing on the right problem. Go back to the manifesto. The manifesto is beautifully written down. The first thing it says is, "Do you know what the problem is?" Most people, I can tell you 90% of the people who are solving a problem are solving for the sake of solving it. They have no freaking idea what the problem is.
Mayank Yadav (24:00):
A PM or any good leader just brings the team back and asks the question. "Oh. Do you know why you're solving this problem?" In a meeting, let's say you're running an experiment, a good example, and you're talking about, "Oh, this metric went down, that went up. Oh, what should we do?" and they're debating. As a PM, just listen to them, and they say, "Well, the Uber goal was to help users get to the checkout faster, or press a button and a car shows up. Is this doing that?" "Well, no, but that metric is ..." If the answer is no, it doesn't matter what metric is up or down. You don't have to... So I think a leader's job or a product manager's job or any leader's job, design leader's job and a cross-function leader's job, is to make sure you keep the team true to the ethos, true to the principles.
Mayank Yadav (24:44):
That is the hard part. It's very easy, It's very easy to say that. It's very hard to get it done. So I think a PM's job is to make sure the principles of the team are laid down straight. What is the mission of the team? What is the vision? What is the mission? What is the goal? As long as these three things are there, after that, it's the PM's job to just facilitate or enable the team to be successful versus injecting their ideas to overthrow somebody else's. I think that's what I would say is most important, setting the right anchors and then helping the team move forward, in a good situation.
Mayank Yadav (25:22):
In a bad situation, when somebody is not performing, somebody's not delivering results, it's the PM's job to jump in, bridge the gap, pull the people up, help them move forward. So be also the cheerleader in terms of the team and if the morale is down. All that nuanced discussion, I'll leave it subjected to the person and how they operate, but generally, the focus should be on anchors and not on ideas or ... Ideas have no value. Ideas in the context of anchors create a lot of value.
Grant Duncan (25:51):
Yeah. Yeah. Good points. What would you say is the most common advice you give to PMs that you're mentoring?
Mayank Yadav (26:00):
What kind of PM? Tell me more about the type of PM. It depends upon who the PM is. "Oh, I'm a PM, it's my first month at my job." Different feedback, different tips. "I'm a PM about to start my job." Different advice. "I'm a mid-level PM trying to level up." Different advice. So give me some examples and I'll give you some answers.
Grant Duncan (26:22):
Sure. Yeah. I'd say someone who is a new PM leader.
Mayank Yadav (26:27):
Yeah. New PM leader. So you have just become a manager or you are leading a new product or what's the story?
Grant Duncan (26:36):
Yeah. You've just become a manager, let's say.
Mayank Yadav (26:39):
Okay. I think that's pretty straightforward. I think the first step of a manager is, if you're a people's manager, you manage people, is to listen, is to listen, understand what each of the PMs that is in your team is trying to achieve in their career. Maybe they don't have a career thinking in their mind. What is driving them to do the job that they're doing today? Listening will help you figure out how to address them, how to enable them to be successful. That's number one, right? Listen, so you can enable them to be successful. Number two is people forget that even a people manager needs to make sure the anchors of the team are strong so other PMs can latch onto it and deliver on those anchors. I know people love bottoms of strategy. It's amazing. Right? "Oh, everybody should have an idea. They should come up with a strategy." It is really good.
Mayank Yadav (27:43):
But trust me, there's no team that comes up with an idea with no anchor. If you tell me grow, it means nothing. If you tell me grow users in India, it means a lot. Then the team works on figuring out the why, the how, the what, and so and so forth. So figuring out of the very strong strategy for the team and then creating the anchors and giving one anchor to each PM will set them for success. I've seen a lot of times where I hear from PMs saying, "I'm doing this. I don't know how it ladders up to my managers goal or his sort of ..." if he's a large organization, by the way, "Or the CEO's goals." That laddering up is the difference between the PM being successful or a failure or being stagnant.
Mayank Yadav (28:37):
Forget the failure word, being stagnant. The laddering up is the difference between impact and no impact. Laddering up cannot happen if this ladder doesn't go somewhere. That “go somewhere” is the anchor we're talking about. So number two is primarily the leader should really set three anchors, four anchors, and be clear how those anchors matter, why they matter, how they ladder up to his sort of laddering up if there is one. If not, if you're CEO, that becomes the anchor the entire company operates under. That's number two. See, number three is important. Have a point of view. Be decisive. It's possible people come to you with situations where, "I don't have data, but I think this is the right thing for us to do, but I can't prove it." After a point, forget it. Doesn't matter. Go back to your principles.
Mayank Yadav (29:27):
The goal was to help India. I mean, just let's say our goal was to help users in, let's say, Brazil buy more cars. Did we allow them to explore more cars? We did, right? That's okay. Go ship it. It doesn't matter. As long as you're doing the right thing for the user, you're fine. So if that principle as a culture goes into the system, decisions can be decisive. They'll not prolong it. What worse can happen? You're wrong. It's okay to be wrong versus not taking a call. So be decisive as a leader, be very decisive and have that bias for action. I love Amazon's ... that principle specifically, bias for action. So three points there.
Mayank Yadav (30:10):
Number one is listen to your people, to your team. It's your team. They're not your reports. It's your team. If they're successful, you'll be successful. Right? So listen to your team. Number two is about setting those anchors for the team. Number three is about be decisive. Don't procrastinate. Don't ask for 10,000 data points, which is impossible. Just take a call and move on.
Grant Duncan (30:34):
Yeah, love that. Well, Mayank, thanks so much for coming on today. Really appreciate you sharing your insights. I think people are going to really appreciate the structured thinking and advice here.
Mayank Yadav (30:43):
Awesome. Great to be here, Grant.
Grant Duncan (30:47):
Good talking to you. Bye.
Mayank Yadav (30:48):
Grant Duncan (30:53):
Thanks for listening to today's podcast, and thanks to our sponsor, Voximplant, as well. If you are looking into how to improve your communication and customer engagement, check them out. Lastly, if you enjoyed this episode, please leave us a review and tell your friends so that others can find it more easily. Have a great day and feel free to reach out to me, Grant Duncan, if you have any questions you want asked in our next episode.