Is your team grappling with organizational challenges, struggling to establish clear goals or consistently missing project deadlines? These issues may indicate symptoms of product development dysfunction. At its core, product development inefficiencies often stem from three key problems: adopting a project mindset instead of a product mindset, placing excessive emphasis on scope rather than value and lacking a comprehensive understanding of how to effectively organize digital products. To realign your team with clearly defined objectives and overcome challenges, it’s essential to identify your team’s symptoms and implement processes for resolution.
Operating with a Project Mindset Rather Than a Product Mindset
If your team is more project-minded than product-minded, you might notice the following symptoms:
- Your people treat scope, budget and timing as fixed constraints.
- The development team wants everything to be perfect before launch.
- User interviews have fallen by the wayside.
- Your team focuses on the execution of written requirements at the expense of everything else.
Teams that are stuck in a project mindset are often too afraid of failure. They’ve likely experienced the negative results of software projects done poorly, such as never-ending timelines and wasted money. As a result, they spend months mapping plans and writing requirement documents as they work toward a singular goal. They try to predict every detail upfront and don’t release a product until everything is completed.
However, when companies and teams adopt a product mindset, they quickly gain the ability to properly manage their scope and reduce their fear of failure. A product mindset reduces the risk of wasted time and money by ensuring a functional MVP that can grow and evolve over time. When companies eliminate this “project over product” mindset, they can accelerate the way they do business by quickly creating a tangible product that drives value.
Focusing More on Scope Than Value
Some common signs that your team is overly focused on scope at the expense of value include:
- Your leadership team has more ideas for features than your team can actually implement.
- Your development team is constantly fighting scope creep.
- The lead developer seems to be in charge of the product.
- No one is discussing the desired outcome of the project anymore.
Teams that focus too heavily on scope aim to identify every detail upfront, often because they start with too big of a vision. More often than not, they experience disappointment and frustration when the scope of their project inevitably changes.
While project management has traditionally focused on the construction of physical spaces, like bridges and buildings, and teams had to identify every single detail of their scope up front, the nature of software projects requires (and allows for) more flexibility. When teams focus on value over scope, they are able to produce an MVP, then test it with customers and other stakeholders. This research almost always uncovers ideas that allow your team to adjust its path accordingly and position the company for ongoing growth.
Since almost every project undergoes changes in scope, teams should follow the pattern of sprints and cycles to allow for flexibility, growth and realistic expectations.
Lack of Understanding in Organizing Digital Product Development Work
Symptoms of insufficient understanding of how to organize a digital product development team include:
- Your teams haven’t studied product development and come from disciplines like development, marketing or business.
- Team members aren’t thinking iteratively and instead prefer big-bang releases.
- Teams are inward-focused and think they know more than anyone else. There seems to be a divide between the development team and the business team.
- The product owner isn’t clearly defined, and product launches are managed by the development team.
Teams that are unfamiliar with agile development typically experience both rigidity in their processes and a tendency to accidentally overspend. Many teams have been burned in the past when presenting a budget to a vendor, so they’re often hesitant to adopt this way of working. However, teams don’t have to commit to a substantial budget from the outset. The value proven from that first cycle will earn more budget, if necessary, to meet the goals of the software or the overarching business goals.
A successful strategy for achieving this is to organize your timeline and priorities by six-week cycles. This concept works well in software systems because these products don’t fit neatly into compartments; rather, they evolve over time. The biggest benefit to working in six-week cycles is that you can build the right system for your team, even if it’s not exactly what they predicted at the beginning.
Continue the Diagnosis
Your team may be dealing with more than one of these problems at once, and the symptoms might be quite subtle. Continue to monitor team performance and track progress against your product roadmap at regular intervals, and don’t expect the development process to be perfect — instead, focus on iterative improvements and asking the right questions.
If your team is experiencing symptoms of product development dysfunction, contact Augusto to explore how we can help realign your team and set you up for success.
Originally published on ProductCraft.com