In product management, the concept of shipping is one of the most important aspects of the job. Shipping is the idea that you launch new features frequently to improve the product incrementally, rather than taking a bunch of time and money to deploy the perfect product. It’s this process that’s helped shape some of the most famous apps including Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Snapchat.
The best product managers have learned how and when to ship imperfect features, because getting the product into the customer’s hands is ultimately more important. The feedback loop takes precedent, and if you continue to improve over time, the customer value will outweigh the customer expectations.
It’s a constant game of tug of war where you need to make calls on whether to hit publish or not. Your ability to ship, consistently, sets the tone for the future of your product.
As we shipped 3 big new features for the Seven platform this week, it got me thinking about the concept of shipping, and why I think it’s so important that everyone tries to ship something of meaning every day.
Defining shipping for your work, and separating it from BAU
While the traditional concept of shipping is specific to the tech world - the reality is that shipping is a representation. It represents the idea that you are going out the door with something of meaning every single day. Shipping doesn’t need to be a feature for your website - the principles can apply to any field, any profession, any project. This could include booking a big meeting, producing a new article, hitting publish on a podcast, doing a big analysis, or presenting in a group of people. It could also be a combination of things. Defining what this means will create your north star, and help you understand what “meaning” in the phrase “ship something of meaning” actually represents.
The key to defining shipping in your world is not getting it confused with BAU work. This doesn’t mean an internal meeting, or standard sales emails/calls, or even standard product updates - shipping should have meaning in this construct, something that’s created, something that takes heavy time to create and think through.
We often get stuck in the BAU loop where we think the mundane, automated tasks often mean progress when in reality, they are probably driving down the value you’re providing. This is where you need to separate the meaningful work from the BAU work - while they’re both important, they have different places in your work flow throughout the day.
Getting into a cadence of shipping every day
The goal of shipping every day is as much about the customer as it is about delivering consistency to yourself and evolving your skillset. In this instance, practice may not make perfect, but it will ultimately get you better at your craft. There’s a reason why MJ was in the gym every day, there’s a reason why writers like Seth Godin write every day - it’s accountability in its truest form. It’s being comfortable getting uncomfortable and putting something out to the world no matter your situation.
Getting into the cadence of shipping is harder that it sounds - because you’re often going to have days where you don’t feel like putting something out there, or putting work into something. Sometimes it’s just an off day. Setting a cadence means making it a habit - the best way to do this implement two components - time blocking and a reward system.
Time blocking will mean that you’re dedicated to this item each day for a specific set of time. Nothing else matters during this time block, distraction should be tuned out, other priorities shifted to the side. The reward system is the other component - creating a reward each time you’ve shipped. James Clear made the reward system famous in his Atomic Habits. So, whether it’s taking a walk or watching a Netflix episode, whatever the reward is, have a system setup where you can reward yourself for progress made.
In a sea of abundance and noise, progress can often be confused with busy, which is why shipping something of meaning every day can help bring meaning back into your job.
Ship once, ship again, keep shipping.