Fear of Missing Out (FOMO) And Bad Product Decisions

Part 3 – Dealing with FOMO Through Data

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My last newsletter  highlighted that FOMO-based decisions are typically driven by emotion. Most often, these decisions add on to the pile of work that people are currently handling, which then causes stress and frustration for people on the team. 

So how do you deal with these scenarios? How do you minimize stress and frustration that result from emotion-based decisions?

The first step is recognizing that emotion can be advantageous. You can examine it and start probing for the deeper reasons that trigger it. Understanding the trigger can help you determine various approaches you may take. 

One useful technique I employ is the 5 Whys technique.  Asking five successive probing questions allows me to get to the root cause as opposed to the outward symptom. I end up learning a few things that are not so apparent.

The second step is to decide on quick data points that may help you reframe and rethink the problem and decision. These data points help validate the decision under a more objective light. One needs just enough info to support and validate – or even change – the decision. 

For example, I found myself chatting with the VP about his wanting to assign a brand new project to a very senior engineer in our department. This new project wasn’t on anyone’s radar, and I had a gut feeling that this new addition would impact what we had already planned for the next quarter. I quickly ran some project queries on JIRA. I showed my executive a particular datapoint – the senior engineer was already on six different projects, all currently going on at the same time. We pored over the data and found out that two of the projects were stalled. The engineer and product manager had been waiting for a couple of months for vital input from the customer. (I was relatively new to the company and didn’t know this.) The customer had undergone a reorganization a couple of months back, and left the two projects in limbo, with no direction in sight for the near term. The engineer was still putting some effort into it based on discussions with the product manager. 

We continued to discuss the four remaining projects. We looked at the amount of effort needed against and the potential ROI. Three of the projects – when compared to this new project – weren’t that high in priority, after a brief chat between the executive and product manager. The executive then decided then to postpone the two projects in limbo, drop the three low ROI items. We all felt better about adding on the new, more impactful initiative in the end.

Notice that in recollecting the story, I introduced the third step – looking at the impact of decisions. In quickly reviewing the project data, and promptly asking more questions form the engineer and product manager, we were swiftly able to come to a decision that made sense. The data allowed us to look at impacts quickly to the current plans that were underway. We managed to streamline other projects in the process. 

Another way to minimize emotion-based decisions is to plan for them. I’ll go over the scenario and technique in my next newsletter. In the meantime, I hope I have provided you with some tips to help you reflect on past situations and see how you could have approached them. I would love to hear from you any insights or “Aha!” moments you want to share as a result of this newsletter topic.

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