I really enjoyed Ben Horowitz's TechCrunch guest post, "Why Founders Fail: The Product CEO Paradox":
Ben nailed it on the head when he said that founder/CEOs who are product visionaries flounder when they disengage from the product: "It turns out that the CEO was only world-class at the product, so she
effectively transformed herself from an excellent, product-oriented CEO
into a crappy, general-purpose CEO. Looks like we need a new CEO."
But I want to make sure that people appreciate the wisdom of his advice on how to stay engaged with the product, not just for Product CEOs, but for any member of a startup team. Here are Ben's points:
Maintain the quality standard.
Be the integrator.
Make people consider the data they don’t have.
Write it; don’t say it.
Formalize and attend product reviews.
Don’t communicate direction outside of your formal mechanisms.
I want everyone at my startup to champion quality, make the product a coherent whole, consider all the data, and communicate clearly in written form.
These points address a who's who of typical product problems at any startup--buggy, inconsistent product, lack of data, lack of formal decisions and rationales.
If you're a founder, Ben's advice will help you stay CEO, but if your an employee, following it will put you on the track to becoming a CEO.