Let me know if you’ve worked on a project like this.
Think of a product team that’s working on some kind of online platform, we’ll call them TechSite. Someone on the TechSite team, a leader of some kind, decides that an initiative is important and declares it a priority to launch a new product. The team creates a prototype of some kind and reviews it internally. They come to agreement on the direction and the leader advocates for launching it. It doesn’t do well, not a total failure, but customers are ambivalent. The leader believes the core of their idea is in place and wants to use testing as a means to improve on the project. The team creates a variety of A/B tests, multi-variate tests, and surveys. The tests come back and they don’t point to a conclusive direction, winners are not clearly statistically significant. The surveys come back, and the responses don’t point to a conclusive direction, sometimes responses target unrelated issues. The leader shifts the team’s priorities to a more urgent matter but there’s no intention to sunset the product and it lives on in a state of suspended animation, launched and partially improved. The team is left with a sense of missed opportunity and TechSite customers don’t really get much at all.
This scenario is representative of so many projects that I have either heard about or been a part of that I am convinced that it has become a standard operating procedure for many product development teams. The team is trying to move quickly, make bold decisions, make big bets, and conduct testing on customers. These are the ubiquitous tenets of a nimble product team, aren’t they? Why is the outcome so poor?
Why are teams of smart, hardworking people making such lame-ass products?
It’s the leader’s fault for pushing their agenda! It’s the team’s fault for weak execution! It’s the team’s fault or not designing a better solution or writing better code! It’s the customer’s fault for not understanding how to use it!
From my perspective, the team never stood a chance, not even the leader. The team thought they had what they needed to succeed, but one of the inputs into their process was insufficient and without it, the team could never make something that their customers would be willing to pay for.
What do you think? If you could fix one thing with this team, what would you address first?