Build What's Important, not What's Easy to Do

A few days ago, when presenting product plans for the next quarter to some of our business people, I got the following questions

Among the tasks you've presented, what are the easy ones to implement and what are the difficult ones?

It's a question that I heard business people asking many times before, but hearing it for the first in my new capacity of VP of Product Development, got me hear it with a completely new set of ears. If before I had heard some well-meaning business folks trying to help with prioritization of work, I have now felt as somebody is trying to take over my job of managing the product. By asking seemingly innocuous questions of tasks difficulty, the business people effectively moved the discourse into the field of business decisions where everything is measured by return on investment, a strategy that encourages more of the same and local optimization over disrupting the status quo.

To keep the discourse in the domain of product development I've replied that we should be building what's important and not what's easy to do. My answer not only kept business people at bay, but also reflects my opinion that the main objective of a product manager shouldn't be to optimize business metrics of revenue and profit, but to maximize the learning about the needs and behavior of customers and mechanics of the target market. While business metrics are the ultimate measures of success, you must first find a clear path towards your goal before sending the army marching in.