How to keep delivering value at a startup? — Stack-rank by leverage

Dhiraj Bhat
3 min readMar 9, 2022


Hi Medium,

Long time no see.

For someone that claims to love doing this, it’s been way too long since I put something out here.

Just to jog your memory for making the mistake of clicking, here’s what I said last time (also self-promoting)

Since that post, I’ve been busy getting my hands dirty with the following

  • Building great personal and professional relationships with anyone that wants to hang out with me
  • Scoping out a bunch of projects
  • Groveling for engineering time
  • Loving life in hybrid work mode!

BUT… I’ve also learned so many many things.

Time consumer #1

Once you’ve asked the question, its time to back that up. Get your nails dirty. Pull your hair out. Annoy. Hustle. Argue. Hug (or high-five if you still care) and keep pushing forward.

How I approached this:

  • Got involved with as many projects as possible
  • Embedded myself in as many teams as possible
  • Spent less time on the actual product I was building than on requirement gathering.

How it looked:

The results

  • Great relationships (yes. 2x as good, bear with me)
  • Process improvements
  • High-level knowledge
  • Customer visibility

Good? Sure. Great? Not particularly.

Time consumer #2

I learned very quickly that the product I help manage @Unit21 was riddled with a few challenges:

  • Historically buggy
  • Nebulous/ black-boxy to the rest of the Org
  • Relatively understaffed
  • In need of training and resourcing for Sales and/or Success

So I dove headfirst into helping where I could, adding comprehensive documentation, demos and any other resources available. However, Time Consumer #1 always threw up surprises, and my inability to push back caused a full plate on paper…

Unfortunately, a list of tasks that wasn’t quite helping me move the needle enough.

Time consumer #3


Photo by Austin Distel on Unsplash

Slack: Expectation and Reality in one picture

Eventually, I realized - while I’d laid down roots at Unit21 in 2021 (yea, very deliberate) the results wouldn’t come. A great year of growth came to an end with a slightly dodgy feeling.

I helped. How do I explode?

The longer I spent working on my project, the more I realized that I didn’t have the requisite tunnel vision for this product journey.

Self-awareness is a powerful thing.

To shed a little color on what I mean, most of the feedback I received was unsurprising and in perfect alignment with my own assessment of the situation. In general, if you and your manager disagree on the broad ideas behind your performance evaluation feedback, you’re either

  • Not self-reflective
  • In the wrong team
  • Stuck in the wrong role/ reporting to someone that doesn’t outline and communicate your goals to you

There were 3 major things that I assessed as limitations:

  • Misalignment with my and my team’s goals
  • Being distracted by the next idea/ the next request
  • Unassertive on my opinions

Next step? Make an action plan

  1. Aggressively communicate and align on goals at individual, team and company level
  2. Call out resource and skillset constraints as early as possible
  3. Communicate your and your team’s ideals as frequently as possible.
  4. Product management is a buffet. Only take stuff that brings you value and focus on the highest-leverage ways to spend your time. Constantly think about what moves the needle furthest and how.
  5. Audit your calendar periodically to ensure that you’re always communicating with the right people at the right time.

People evolve. Cultures change. At a rapid growth startup, there’s always a chance that people move on specifically due to evolution of the culture or the nature of their roles. Ensure that you’re always aligned with the direction of the mother ship, and if you hit rocky waters, steer into the skid together!



Dhiraj Bhat

Passionate about building products that matter