The Goal

"If you're not driving the business, you're not driving your future"

"If you're not driving the business, then you're not driving your future."

-- David Henke

Most business books are drivel. The reason business books have the reputation they do is because there's one good one for every thousand poorly written copycats. One of those good ones, however, is "The Goal" by Eliyahu Goldratt. Jeff Bezos requires incoming execs read it, and it’s one of the books David Henke recommended when he came and spoke at HubSpot (where I work).

The core lesson in the book is to avoid local maxima, and to make sure your systems are optimizing for the overall goal your company has (hence the name). The story follows a manufacturing plant, but applies just as readily to many other businesses and their processes. The main character learns again and again how various parts of the plant need to subordinate their own metrics and throughput in order to maximize the overall output.

This is a great lesson to internalize, and for product managers like me, it's a good reminder when working on a small part of a much larger product.

The lesson: lift your eyes and see how you fit in the larger customer journey and don't just solve for your team and your part of the user's flow. We have lots of small, autonomous teams at HubSpot, which makes it all the more important to have an eye toward the full customer experience and the resulting revenue impact of our decisions.

That said, an even bigger (and more obvious) take-away that I got from the book is the necessary conclusion that you’ll come to whenever you're working in a company that isn't a non-profit:

Revenue will always be your north star at the end of the day.

Depending on the history/size/sophistication/industry of your company, you may not have been forced to consider this. It's easy to lose sight of in large corporations, especially when you're relatively far removed from the sales team that has numbers to hit every month. Maybe your team's focus is driving usage or improving specific on-boarding flows. You're measured by Weekly Active Users or Activation Rate (hey, at least it's not scrum points per sprint or something). Those all sound like fine goals for a product team.

Just don’t lose sight of the ladder those goals all sit on, and what’s at the top of it.

When you switch your mindset to always keeping revenue in mind, it puts your sub-goals in perspective. Sure, let's focus on increased Activation Rate *as a way to improve our customer conversion rate and drive more revenue*.

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