Hey Marketing, adding a feature to your product is not innovation

I was watching Sunday Night Football. The Browns were using all the tricks the Patriots used in the Superbowl. They even entered the half winning 6-3.

Then the half time ads come on trying to make a man out of all of us demanding that we drink beer, eat beef, and drive pickup trucks. One announcer with his deep booming voice makes it clear that his company’s truck is the most innovative. It had added yet another feature to the grab bag of features it already has. Yippee!

Hey Marketing, adding a feature to your product is not innovation. Even if you say it many times and repeat your ad, it still does not make it innovative. Maybe you are just trying to redefine the word innovative?

Adding a feature to your product is just evolving the feature set. You have been doing that since the beginning of pickup trucks. That is gradual and useful.

If you want to be innovative, you need a stepwise improvement that displaces something else in the product space. Typically that will need more than a product enhancement.

Perhaps with all the do-dads you put in the car, you could just monitor them all and fix them before they break so that there is no interruption in the use of my truck… Ever. That I would buy… and I don’t even drive a truck.

By |September 22nd, 2019|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Always open design is a great way to never ship

I worked with a small team of designers. The application was a large complicated enterprise app. Each team member would work on their design and review within the team of designers. Once we agreed we would review with the product managers. Once we all agreed, the product owner would sign off.

This would all go through the story completion, refinement, and development. The story would be accepted and totally integrated. But this would never hold back one of my team members.

Without a lick of new information about the product or users, he would see the implementation and change the design. It was the never ending story. Every design had no end and was forever open.

This was frustrating. Each change was a series of new conversations. All the previous decisions needed to be revisited. However, the new designs that needed to be done for the release were put on hold for this person’s pet interests.

Don’t let your designers or anyone else reopen the coded implementation unless the users cannot do what the need.

By |August 27th, 2019|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Get rid of meetings

Seems like a stupid idea to me. You run bad meetings so just get rid of them? So if you should be working together… Don’t. Just go back to your computer and email everyone because…uh… That’s more efficient? Or, well maybe, just keep it to six people because six people suffering through a bad meeting is better than seven.

By |August 25th, 2019|Uncategorized|0 Comments

3 Design thinking metrics

Design thinking is the structured, linear process IDEO and the Stanford d-school created to help business people create better solutions than sitting in a bar and writing on the back of a napkin.

If you have teams following this process consider these 3 metrics to ensure your organization is measuring the change in behavior:

  1. Frequency of new customer insights being added to the team understanding
  2. The balance of team composition during solution exploration and ideation: .34 domain, .33 operations, and .33 outside blood
  3. Time to testing prototypes with potential users

So if you know your customer well, have the proper mix of people, and test your ideas as soon as possible you will create better solutions and find out if they work for your customers sooner rather than later.

Designers whining about the statement “everyone is a designer” – huh?

Design is about solving problems for the customer with a particular focus, using a set of technologies.

People who are trained to be designers bring a certain set of skills and techniques that are helpful to elevate the solution. However, most designers I know are human. And human performance is distributed normally. What this means is that most designers have average ideas about how to solve problems.

So how can you get better ideas. One way is to find the 3% designer… Good luck on that. Another way is to provide other people the approaches to doing good design and make everyone a “designer”.

To what advantage is this? The more people involved in the design process, the more quality solutions, the more likely one of those solutions are on the front end of the solution space… Way better than average.

So designers stop whining and teach everyone to be designers so that you can reap the reward of a better solution.

Change is inevitable, manage the risk

You have prided yourself in delivering quality products and services. That is what you are known for. Over the years there has never been anyone quite like you.

But today the little upstarts are passing you by.

Why don’t you do something about it? Oh you are! Then let’s see it. Why can’t you show us? Because it is not quite ready? Why? Because it is not up to our standards.

Hmmm! This introduces great risks into your process. By the time you will ever know if something is good for your customers, time will have passed you by.

Here is a new metric for your company. Time to testable results, where smaller is best.

Every idea should be treated as a way to learn and a way to teach. Initial ideas are malformed but still should be tested like a small experiment. Get your results, learn, and adjust.

As you learn more your solution gets more sophisticated and you know more about your users. Then your tests can become more sophisticated so that you can approach the product that you can deliver.

The end result is the product is of a higher quality, people want it and you can deliver faster.

Why does enterprise agile seem to forget the customer?

The agile manifesto has four points:

  1. Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
  2. Working software over comprehensive documentation
  3. Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
  4. Responding to change over following a plan

While many organizations I work with struggle with aspects of each of these, the customer collaboration seems to be almost absent.
Many organizations have started hiring UX and product designers. They are supposed to act on behalf of the customer. So you have specialists in the organization that many organization still struggle to incorporate in a useful way.
Every product team with or without designers should collaborate with the customer with at least these two things:

  1. Have the actual customer validate the priority of the stories to be worked in the backlog
  2. At the end of each iteration of sprint have the user perform the story. If the users succeed then the story can be accepted

I guarantee your product will meet your customers’ needs better than ever before.

Dashboards are not useful filled with summary charts

Grids of data are difficult to interpret. Dashboards of summary charts of that data are only one step better. It still takes time to look at and interpret what needs to be done.

Dashboards really should do the job of interpretation for the user. Show a list of the items that need to be done now. Display the items that are up next and that are approaching. Provide the ability to use the data to predict what-if scenarios.

Got a report? No one wants to wait. How do you keep everyone informed?

Research always seems to take too long and no one wants to wait. Managers ask for results or what the report is going to look like.

They got the money together and got the project rolling. Now they want to see something happening.

Just wait a couple more days or weeks is not going to do.

I have been very successful at this communication where the big report just won’t do. A good example was on a large project with a condensed schedule. The client paid for the product but usability testing failed. I had to redesign the product and ensure my company and the client were comfortable.

I did two things to ensure success:

  1. Involved everyone from the beginning and dragged them along
  2. Updated everyone continuously. No big report.

Everyone interested participated in the process whether it was validating ideas, scheduling people, attending sessions or doing the tests. This kept everyone aware.

After every interview, validation session or usability test I would gather three things to email at the end of the day:

  1. New – what was new, a surprise, or something that needed to be acted upon
  2. Problem – what did we miss, what was not correct, what needed immediate attention
  3. Monitoring – What were we monitoring that one person had mentioned? What are we watching to see if it is a common issue or the uniqueness of one or two people?

These three lists in an email at the end of a day with information gathered keeps all the people interested up to date. This also is very low overhead for a big impact.

How do you keep everyone informed?

What is strategy? I hear people say it all the time but I am not sure what they mean.

Strategy always comes across as something planned by the executives. We have our strategy for the next 5 years. I wonder if we are using strategy to mean objectives and goals.

I think that Ann Lantham does a good job describing the issue and definition of strategy in this Forbes article: What The Heck Is A Strategy Anyway?

My favorite quote is “A strategy is a framework for making decisions about how you will play the game of business.” This framework identifies what’s in and what’s out on key business aspects like customers, domains, industries, and business models.