Note: as I’m currently evaluating and interviewing for product manager opportunities, I’m publishing many answers to the product, behavioral, business, and life questions I’m researching/practicing publicly rather than keep them private in a Google doc.

If your engineer tells you that a product launch will be delayed for 6 months, what would you do?

This is a product manager’s worst nightmare; I can’t think of a single scenario worse than a launch delay lasting months. Perhaps shuttering a product before it ever ships, but there’s no customer impact in that scenario — just a massive motivation challenge to overcome for those who worked on the product that’s never going to see the light of day for reasons totally outside their control.

Let’s get back to figuring out what to do.

The first step would be to better understand the reasons behind the delay. Is it engineering complexity? Scope creep? Departure of a key team member? Platform switch? Data migration? Change in competitive landscape requiring change in features? This step would involve a thorough conversation with the lead engineer for the product.

A meeting with the lead engineer, business owner, and yourself would be next in order to ensure everyone is on the same page, and brainstorm whether there are any technical resources/solutions that could get the launch date back on track.

The next step is to determine who will be affected, and what actions need to be taken. Customers, business owners, public relations, and other product teams are the most likely parties impacted. The worst case scenario is if the delayed product was actually “sold” to customers prior to launch. Unfortunately, this is done all the time in the technology world (it’s called selling vapor). In that case, pre-sold customers will need a refund or personal calls from your team to assure them corrective actions are being taken and the product will be delivered.

A new, thorough timeline needs to be put in place with the changes in resources, priorities, and complexity.

Lastly, communicate, communicate, communicate. Execs need to be be brought up to speed. Customers who will be briefed. Marketing needs to be told not to promote a product or feature that doesn’t exist. Business owners need to adjust their yearly budget and goals. Sales needs to know what expectations to set with potential (and current) customers. PR needs to know not to push publish on that press release that’s been prepped for weeks.


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