…there are several sentences in the present volume which some unusually stupid children of ten might find a little puzzling. On this ground I do not claim that the essays are popular; and if not popular, then “unpopular.”

Bertrand Russell, preface to Unpopular Essays

Your job is to be the VP of No

Richard Banfield, talk in Seattle 9/20/19


One of the most important things I do is provide direction. The thing about direction is that it’s singular. There’s one thing it is and infinite things it isn’t. All those edge cases that are killing velocity? Probably not the direction. The unusually stupid ten-year-old? Not Lord Russell’s target audience.


A few weeks ago I walked in on a dev arguing with a QA. QA had found that the phone number field on account creation wasn’t limited in character length and was crashing the app. The dev insisted that it had to be that way because someone from another country with a two-digit country code might move to the USA, keep their old phone number, get a job in the highly regulated home valuation industry, and try to create an account in our app. I put on my VP of No hat. 


In less ludicrous cases, it’s harder. A product can’t be everything to everyone. Which means deprioritizing personas or use cases. You can either direct that prioritization or simply allow it to happen. The former grants you direction and control. The latter is negligence by avoidance.