Five years ago, nobody really remembered Alexander Hamilton, but with the helping hand of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Tony-winning musical he has burst back into the spotlight over two hundred years later. While I will agree that Miranda’s songs are incredible, there is not enough focus on Hamilton’s greatest achievement: he got the US Constitution ratified! He brought the colonies together from flimsy, confederated states into the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA (‘MURICA!).
I’m not a history major, but it is well-known that Hamilton was the force driving the ratification of the US Constitution. He may not have been too heavily involved in actually writing the contents of the Constitution, but he was instrumental in starting the conversation with his Hamilton plan for a strong, central government; defending and defining the Constitution with the Federalist papers; and pushing the Constitution to ratification by the colonies. From a product management perspective, Hamilton was shrewd. So, how can you unleash your inner Hamilton and be the best product manager you can be?
- Always Bring Something to the Table: Never go empty-handed into a meeting. So many meetings are unproductive because nobody bothers to do their homework. For every meeting you host or attend, even a brainstorming meeting, contribute something to the meeting. At the Constitutional Convention, Hamilton had a full-fledged plan for how the new nation should work. Sure, the delegates didn’t choose that plan, but it began conversations about having a strong, central government and it was better than the Pinckney plan, which no one really remembers because it was not even written down. Meetings are for productive discussions, not to beat around the bush because no one was prepared.
- Don’t Be Stubborn: Understand that differences in opinion are not personal and you need to do what is best for the majority of the stakeholders, not just you. Hamilton was opinionated, but he was open to reaching compromises. While he personally disagreed with a lot of the Constitution, he understood his role was to find the best option for the country. Hamilton knew that the Articles of Confederation were weak and unless a new government was created they could lose their democracy. So he voted for the US Constitution.
- Understand Risks: Nothing is risk-free. There are risks in every product, so it is essential to be proactive and work on preventing risks rather than waiting to see if the risks will come true. Do the analysis. Hamilton knew that the biggest risk for the US Constitution was if it was not ratified. People were afraid of a central government. To prevent this, Hamilton, with John Jay and James Madison, wrote the 85 Federalist Papers to convince voters to ratify the Constitution. Obviously it worked.
- Listen to the People (Stakeholders): Everyone is important and everyone should be included. Sometimes, when dealing with a difficult stakeholder, all you have to do is probe and listen. Most often you will find the core reason why that stakeholder is acting up. (Reminds you of requirements elicitation doesn’t it?) When Virginia was one of the last colonies that had not yet ratified the Constitution, Hamilton listened and understood their fear of a central government. All he had to do was agree to move the capitol of the central government to somewhere on the Potomac River. Virginia ratified the Constitution. Understanding where people are coming from is key to reaching a compromise.
- Don’t Throw Away Your Shot: Don’t just take orders and don’t be afraid to say what you believe. Use your intelligence and logic to understand what is best for your product, which is what is best for the stakeholders. Hamilton’s passion and analytic skills gained him respect (even if they did not necessarily like his views) and led to his appointment of Secretary of the Treasury. Stand up for yourself and your product!
In conclusion, Hamilton was amazing.