Right now is a sobering time to be a planner. We like to fool ourselves that we can predict the future, or at least map out its possibilities with forecasts, charts, and graphs. But the arrival of COVID-19 has been a potent reminder of how little we can say with certainty about the future. With every cancelled event, empty store shelf, accidental touch of the face, or unexpected government announcement, the limits of our planning have become abundantly clear. So it’s no surprise that between our work, our families, and our health, many of us are worrying about the future…

Often emotion sits in the background of our consciousness, present but not fully acknowledged. With the rise of the novel coronavirus, the experience of fear and other emotions is suddenly becoming all too conscious for many of us. How many of these do you recognize in yourself, your friends, family, or colleagues?

  • Fear: of shortages of food and supplies, of isolation and cabin fever, of panic and chaos, of lack of childcare, of lost wages and financial insecurity, of the unknown, of sickness or death.
  • Guilt or Shame: from not being better prepared, from losing your cool, from not washing…

Four Reasons I Stopped Advising and Started Coaching

When I joined Slack back in the summer of 2014, an odd thing happened: strangers started asking me for advice. So I embraced it: helping these ambitious strangers felt right. When I left Slack a year later, I assumed that was all over. But I decided to write about my experience so I could share what I had learned. Suddenly more people than ever were asking for advice: not just strangers on the Internet, but the fine folks at First Round Capital, Flybridge Capital, Acceleprise and others. …

Part 5: Building a Great Communications Culture on Slack

I was the first product manager at Slack. I couldn’t be more grateful for all that I learned helping grow the product and the team, so it’s high time I shared a few of those lessons.

It’s easy to forget how completely email owned office communication for the past two decades. At some point communication stopped being a part of company culture, and became a checkbox on your list of office skills: word processing, spreadsheets, and email.

The good news is that’s changing. With the rise of real time messaging and collaboration apps in the workplace, we have access to…

Part 4: The Six Forces of Product Development

I was the first product manager at Slack. I couldn’t be more grateful for all that I learned helping grow the product and the team, so it’s high time I shared a few of those lessons.

Fast-growing companies like Slack are always changing. They must constantly strive to make sure their organization and processes are addressing the new challenges that emerge each day. With each new project, with each new hire, with each new stretch goal, successfully delivering on the promise of the company grows more complex.

Project Management Triangle

One useful way to think about this problem is as a set of…

Part 3: One Metric is Not Enough

I was the first product manager at Slack. I couldn’t be more grateful for all that I learned helping grow the product and the team, so it’s high time I shared a few of those lessons.

Many startups these days are focused on optimizing a single top-level metric. Even more are focused on a single primary data source: analytics, A/B testing, social media, sales, support, internal discussion, etc. Boiling down all of a product’s nuance to one metric makes things simpler. But product development is seldom simple. At Slack, we didn’t take any single data source too seriously.

Part 2: Big Ideas, Big Stories

I was the first product manager at Slack. I couldn’t be more grateful for all that I learned helping grow the product and the team, so it’s high time I shared a few of those lessons.

Slack has been the beneficiary of numerous articles in the press. Rapid growth and a celebrated CEO helped, but there’s another key factor behind Slack’s PR success — they tell the stories of the big ideas behind the company. As a founder at YesGraph, my previous startup, that quality and quantity of PR seemed unattainable. But we did have some big ideas. …

Part 1: Peaks and Valleys

I was the first product manager at Slack. I couldn’t be more grateful for all that I learned helping grow the product and the team, so it’s high time I shared a few of those lessons.

While Slack has earned plenty of kudos for its design details, I think of it more as having high peaks and low valleys. Every product has parts of its grand vision that are more built out than others, Slack included. The trick is which parts you build first.

You can build a “flat” product: everything is only barely as good as it needs to…

Kenneth Berger

Executive coach and tech veteran specializing in finding permanent solutions to the pain of startup leadership.

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