Does your company suffer from product paralysis? Product paralysis occurs when progress halts on improving or innovating a product. At some point, you've probably experienced:
- A product team can't agree on major product decisions, so they concentrate on minor bug fixes and enhancements that have little or no market impact.
- Bold product decisions are made (often by members of the team that just happen to wield the most influence at the time), but the decisions come under fire and are put on hold shortly thereafter.
- Team members don't buy into product decisions, so they undermine them, stall their execution, or just aren't motivated to be productive in executing them.
- Base product decisions on market understanding and marketing principles. Teams will not buy in to major product decisions unless they can make a compelling case for them. It's hard to make a smart product decision without understanding the market and the principles of marketing (which are often counter-intuitive).
- Involve the team in making product decisions. In the authoritarian model of product management, a product manager becomes an expert on the market, gets input from development on the technical feasibility of implementing new features, and makes unilateral decisions. In the organic model of product management, a product manager leads the process of collective product decision-making and arms the team with the market information and marketing principles necessary to produce quality decisions. A product manager applying the organic approach uses change management and decision facilitation to foster buy-in and to motivate the team to execute.
- Iterate on the research and development of products. Product teams will make mistakes. They will never fully understand the impact of product decisions on their customers until the team at least partially executes and tests those decisions in the market. Thus the team will and should revisit decisions. An effective product team leader helps the team confront risks and uncertainty quickly and in a disciplined fashion. Frequent iterations provide a systematic way of learning and of evaluating and revisiting product decisions.
One other thought that you didn't touch on was where in the product lifecycle are you? This can greatly influence the next steps.
Totally agree that internal change management is crucial to prevent product paralysis. It's important to keep in mind that "selling" a product roadmap isn't sufficient. There are important lessons to learn from Sharon Drew Morgen's concept, Buying Facilitation(TM).
I'm not sure I see relevance of the product lifecycle. At any point in the lifecycle, a product team is making strategic decisions about the product. The decision to maintain but not significantly enhance a product is itself a strategic decision. A subsequent decision to kill a product entirely is a strategic decision. To be effective and fully executed, these decisions benefit from at least some of the approaches I've enumerated, right?
Great post and thanks for the mention!
I would add some emphasis to your point on how critical it is that the product manager understand how to influence change and decision facilitation to really be effective.
Also, they must really understand organizational dynamics to make sure that they are not only influencing the members of their team but the influences throughout the company.
In my experience, it is the hidden influencers that might not be directly involved in the upfront product decisions that if not sold on the direction can cause the biggest headaches down the road.
1. Understand your market
2. Involve your stakeholders
3. Test and learn through iteration
I've just posted something on number one at: http://www.productpowers.com/blog/is-your-roadmap-inside-out.html
Also Joshua is right on when he emphasizes the need for influence. See my post on being The Hand of the King: http://www.productpowers.com/blog/court-scribe-or-hand-of-the-king.html