Winning Arguments vs. Solving Problems: The Product Manager’s Conundrum

Rohit Verma
4 min readMay 31, 2024

As a Product Manager (PM), the ultimate goal is to deliver value to customers and stakeholders by creating and enhancing products that solve real problems. However, in the high-stakes environment of product development, it’s easy to get sidetracked by the need to win arguments rather than focusing on solving problems. This conundrum can lead to inefficiencies, strained relationships, and ultimately, a product that fails to meet user needs.

The Problem Statement

Imagine a scenario where a PM, Scott, is leading a cross-functional team to develop a new feature for a mobile app. The team is divided on whether to implement a particular design change. Scott believes strongly in the change based on past experiences and is determined to convince the team. Meetings become contentious, and the focus shifts from understanding the underlying user problem to defending positions. The result? A stalled project and a demotivated team.

Drawing the Line: Focus on Solving Problems

To avoid falling into the trap of winning arguments over solving problems, PMs need to adopt a mindset and framework that prioritize problem-solving. Here are steps and strategies to achieve this:

1. Adopt a Problem-Solving Mindset

The first step is a mental shift. Recognize that your primary role is to solve problems for users and the business. Arguments and debates are natural, but they should be aimed at uncovering the best solutions, not at winning.

2. Use Data to Drive Decisions

Objective data can be a powerful tool to steer conversations toward problem-solving. Instead of relying solely on opinions, bring in user research, analytics, and A/B test results. For example, in Alex’s case, conducting a user survey or usability test on the proposed design change could provide clear insights that move the discussion from subjective to objective.

3. Facilitate Collaborative Discussions

Create an environment where all team members feel heard and valued. Use frameworks like “Six Thinking Hats” to explore ideas from multiple perspectives systematically. This encourages constructive dialogue and reduces the emotional charge of disagreements.

4. Define Clear Objectives and Metrics

Align the team around clear objectives and success metrics. For Alex, defining what success looks like for the new feature (e.g., increased user engagement, reduced churn) can help keep discussions focused on what truly matters.

5. Develop Empathy

Empathy is crucial for understanding user needs and for team dynamics. Alex should strive to understand the concerns and motivations of both the users and the team members. This can be achieved through active listening and by fostering an inclusive team culture.

Example Framework: The “Problem-Solving Canvas”

To operationalize these strategies, PMs can use a structured framework like the “Problem-Solving Canvas.” This tool helps PMs and their teams systematically address issues without getting sidetracked by the need to win arguments.

Steps to Use the Problem-Solving Canvas:

  1. Problem Definition: Clearly define the problem you are trying to solve.
  • Example: “Users are dropping off at the payment screen.”

2. Stakeholder Input: Gather insights from all relevant stakeholders.

  • Example: UX designers, developers, marketing, and customer support.

3. User Insights: Collect and synthesize user research and feedback.

  • Example: User interviews reveal that the payment process is perceived as too complicated.

4. Ideation: Brainstorm potential solutions with the team.

  • Example: Simplify the payment form, add a progress indicator, or provide more payment options.

5. Evaluation: Assess solutions based on feasibility, impact, and alignment with objectives.

  • Example: Feasibility matrix and impact assessment.

6. Decision Making: Use data and collaborative discussion to select the best solution.

  • Example: Conduct a quick A/B test to compare the simplified form against the current one.

7. Implementation: Develop and launch the chosen solution.

  • Example: Work with developers to implement the simplified payment form.

8. Measurement and Iteration: Monitor the impact of the solution and iterate as necessary.

  • Example: Track user engagement metrics and gather post-launch feedback.

Final take

For PMs, the line between winning arguments and solving problems can be thin. However, by adopting a problem-solving mindset, leveraging data, fostering collaboration, and using structured frameworks like the Problem-Solving Canvas, PMs can ensure that their focus remains on delivering value to users and stakeholders. Remember, the true measure of success is not in winning arguments but in creating products that solve real problems and delight users.

Thanks for reading! If you’ve got ideas to contribute to this conversation please comment. If you like what you read and want to see more, clap me some love! Follow me here, or connect with me on LinkedIn or Twitter.

Do check out my latest Product Management resources 👇



Rohit Verma

Group Product Manager @AngelOne, ex-@Flipkart, @Cleartrip @IIM Bangalore.