As mentioned in my previous article, expectations have shifted in the technology and start-up world in the past year, and there is an increased urgency to show product development results.
Urgency doesn't mean rushing, working harder, or compromising on quality; rather, it requires an approach which fosters shared vision, continuous improvement, and customer-centricity. When faced with prospect of deliver value quickly, product teams should constantly ask themselves, "what is the smallest thing we could do which adds value?" Even if a small increment doesn't immediately generate financial results, it instills confidence in users and investors that product development is moving in a positive direction.
Any software which is checked into source control, but doesn't deliver value to customers represents a liability to an organization and should be treated as such. The longer it takes to deliver customer value, expectations rightfully increase. This can be avoid by consistently showing improvement with incremental results.
Fostering a Shared and Reasonable Vision
A shared and reasonable vision is the cornerstone of a successful product development process. When all team members are aligned with the project's goals and vision, they work cohesively towards a common objective.
Encourage open communication and collaboration to foster a shared vision. Avoid unrealistic expectations and ensure that the project's goals are both aspirational and attainable. A clear and shared vision inspires urgency by motivating the team to work diligently towards a common purpose.
I believe a bit of psychology is at play here. When the team doesn't share a common vision, it splinters and motivation and productivity drops. This can be extremely dangerous to an organization which needs to show results quickly.
Developing Iteratively: Progress through Incremental Change
Iterative development empowers product teams to make incremental progress with each iteration. Instead of aiming for a fully polished product from the start, break the project into manageable cycles, where each iteration builds upon the previous one.
Embracing iterative development encourages adaptability and responsiveness to user feedback and evolving market demands. It allows for continuous improvement, resulting in a more refined and relevant final product.
Release Early and Often: Responding to Customer Needs
Releasing early and frequently is a key practice in agile product development, and was popularized in Eric Raymond's well known paper The Cathedral and the Bazaar in 1999. Delivering a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) to customers, allows you gather valuable feedback and validate assumptions early in the process.
Early releases enable teams to better understand customer preferences and pain points. This customer-centric approach ensures that the final product meets customer needs more effectively.
Effective Meetings: A Catalyst for Collaboration
Effective meetings play a crucial role in aligning teams and making informed decisions. To create urgency, meetings must be well-structured and goal-oriented. Meetings are a large enough topic that they could be covered in an article of their own, but I will touch upon the fundamentals here.
- Set clear agendas and objectives to keep discussions focused and productive.
- Prepare ahead of time to make the most of the meeting. Going into a meeting cold is almost never a good use of all
- Avoid designing the product during meetings; use them to review progress and align on goals.
- Encourage active participation and create an environment where diverse perspectives are valued. Don't allow strong voices or asymmetrical power dynamics
- Remove less important meetings. While meetings are necessary for collaboration, it's equally important to eliminate less important or redundant ones. Unnecessary meetings can consume valuable time and impede progress. Conduct a thorough review of meeting schedules and prioritize the most impactful ones. Removing less essential meetings allows team members to focus on core tasks and optimize productivity.
Decisive Decision-Making: Avoiding Revisits and Delays
Decisive decision-making is crucial to avoid delays and inefficiencies in the development process. Once decisions are made, trust in them and avoid revisiting them unless absolutely necessary. Often the cost of changing a decision is higher than making a slightly less optimal one.
Decisions should be documented, and project managers should prevent the team from using cycles to reconsider a decision which has already been agreed upon.
Focus on Product Value: Striving for Customer Satisfaction
Perfection is an unattainable goal that can hinder progress. Prioritize delivering value to customers by focusing on essential features and functionalities.
A customer-focused approach ensures that the product addresses specific needs and resonates with the target audience. Embrace continuous improvement over the pursuit of unattainable perfection.
Avoid Rewriting Working Software: Minimizing Disruptions
Software rewrites can disrupt the development process and waste valuable resources. This company ending results of such rewrites were well documented by Joel Spolsky's classic Things You Should Never Do, Part I.
When I say rewrite, I don't mean making changes in response to customer feedback or usage. I mean reimplementing existing functionality because of a perceived technical limitation. I've been involved in 3 software rewrites in my career and all of them put significant stress on the engineering teams and ultimately put the product and/or company at jeopardy as release dates continued to slip and slip as parity was never reach with the former implementation.
Most products can be moved to a new design incrementally, and I have successfully worked on projects and UX flows which used different designs systems as we progressed incrementally toward a common paradigm. This can be uncomfortable for UX designers and product perfectionists, but ultimately significantly reduces the risk of failure in the organization.
Heeding Jeff Bezos: Removing One-Way Doors
Jeff Bezos' principle of removing one-way doors underscores the importance of adaptability and agility. Avoiding irreversible decisions allows teams to explore alternative paths and pivot when necessary.
By eliminating one-way doors, teams can foster a culture of continuous learning and innovation. This approach encourages creative solutions and rapid progress.
Creating urgency in the product development process involves embracing an agile, customer-focused, and collaborative mindset. By fostering a shared and reasonable vision, developing iteratively, releasing early and often, conducting effective meetings, removing less important meetings, making decisive decisions, prioritizing product value, avoiding unnecessary rewrites, and removing one-way doors, product development teams can drive transformative results.
The pursuit of urgency empowers teams to innovate rapidly, meet customer needs effectively, and succeed in a rapidly evolving market. Embrace urgency as a guiding principle, and witness how it transforms your product development journey, leading to impactful and customer-centric products which stand out.