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The monkey trap

Monkey thinking

There is a story about some kind of monkey trap that was once used in India. There would be a hollow coconut with a small hole and some sweet rice inside. And the monkey could put their hand in the hole and grap the rice, but wouldn’t be able to get out of the hole unless it would let go of the rice. And the monkeys wouldn’t let go of the rice so they would be trapped. They wouldn’t be trapped so much by something physical but by an idea: “You never let go of the rice”.

The feature trap

And it reminds me of the way we often handle our product management. We seem to have a habit of creating many features and holding on to them. We either hold on to them because we are not sure if or how they are being used or we simply think it would be wasteful to remove them since it took money and effort to create them in the first place. 

Either way, by holding on too tight you risk getting stuck. You will create heavier products that are harder to maintain and slower to deliver. You risk more bugs in unused code, which is so frustrating, and of course a higher risk for functional debt: people in your organization not knowing what certain features actually do. 

The art of letting go

Making sure you validate outcomes against objectives must be regarded as a fundamental responsibility of any Product Owner or Product Manager. Closing this feedback loop is the only way you can let go of some features while having the data to back this choice up. It has much more importance than monitoring the input/output flow.

The only way to make sure your product and teams are agile, effective and happy is to either prevent or remove all the excess baggage. The thing you need to do for that is to just let go of the rice sometimes!