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Creating more human products – A playbook

The playbook offers a more human way of developing products that can continuously innovate to discover unmet user needs for long term delight. It’s more human because the product is as much for the people building it, as it is for the customers.

The lack of aligned autonomy and an analytical mindset is where most products miss out the most on continuous innovation…and eventually fail to achieve the desired outcomes.

Very human problems

  • Lack of a BIG vision and a roadmap to success.
  • Odd goals set without any connection to the vision & strategy.
  • No visibility for the humans around the goal(s) and measures of success.
  • Ideas executed to get outcomes without any relation to vision & roadmap.
  • No connection of tasks to the BIG vision.

The playbook offers a more human way of developing products that can continuously innovate to discover unmet user needs for long term delight. Someone asked me, why is this methodology more human? It’s more human because the product is as much for the people building it, as it is for the customers and in the gist of chasing revenue and goals, we forget to take care of the humans who build the products in the first place. Here’s a way to to give aligned autonomy to teams so they can build the products that customers fall in love with, faster and without stress.


The building block

Let’s start by defining the building block of a continuously innovating product.

Value driven goal

Often called Objective and Key Results aka OKR, it comprises of a goal to be achieved in the future (I’d recommended it to resonate user value delivered) and 1-3 measures of success that indicate how close you are to your goal. I often find myself battling between multiple measures of success and prefer a mix with One Metric That Matters but it depends on what works best for you.

  • Goal should be inspirational, easily understandable, directional and have a high impact. E.g. Build a rocket capable of reaching mars.
  • A Measure of Success is recommended to be specific, measurable and ambitious. Eg. Achieve 5 successful test launches.

If you want to read more to know more, here is a good one-pager on OKR’s by Perdoo.


Product vision and roadmap

Now, let’s define a BIG vision or let’s say a very very ambitious goal for our product and to create a roadmap, create goals that will indicate if we’re on the right path to our BIG vision.

Product vision and roadmap
  • I’d recommend creating 1-4 goals to your BIG Vision and 2-3 Measures of Success per goal.
  • Goals are not set in stone, once you’re on the journey and as the customer landscape changes, to the roadmap needs to be adjusted accordingly.
  • Once you identify your Current State, the next goal automagically becomes your desired Future State, if the above graphic is making any sense. These states help you break your journey into smaller, more intuitive journeys.


The BIG picture

This BIG Vision & Goals Methodology is applicable to both start-ups and established companies. In short, product goals can feed its own goals or the product group’s goals and the same is applicable between the group and the company.

The big picture

Just for simplicity, I have explained a single product above, there can be several products in a group and several groups in a company that are feeding into each other’s OKR’s as above.


Discover opportunities

Now that your goals are set (at least for this quarter), and the desired outcomes are specific, let us begin understanding our states and what can we do to reach them. Below is a basic framework to outline your closest Future State and discover opportunities to reach our measures of success.

Future state framework
  • Drivers are factors that will help you achieve measures of success. If you’re have trouble, simple ask yourself “what happens if you don’t change anything?”.
  • Barriers are simply the factors preventing you from changing.
  • Opportunities (or Unmet Customer Needs) are deduced from speaking with customers and understanding their challengesgoalsexperiences and delights. I’d recommend Generative Research or a Design Sprint. Whatever be your unique way to get to opportunities, it’s important to ensure they’re aligned towards achieving measures of success in the future state.


Prioritise ideas / solutions

This is where we start creating ideas, it makes more sense because the ideas can then help us commercialise an opportunity (or multiple) that is closely connected with the Future State we desire on the journey to our BIG Vision.

Prioritise ideas / solutions
  • One goal can have many opportunities and one opportunity can have many ideas that can potentially get us the desired results.
  • Its very important to prioritise these ideas for your own sanity, we can do this simply through Desirability Vs Viability but it’s up to you. I’d recommend keeping it simple and not to worry about (but it’s good to have an understanding on) feasibility while using your creativity to come up with the biggest, boldest and the most visionary ideas.
  • Once you’ve places your ideas on the chart, here’s what you can do. Start with the low hanging fruit in SECTION 1 to Build, Measure & Learn. From SECTION 2, validate the riskiest ideas first before building. Finally, the safest ideas in SECTION 3 and the trick is to pick the most valuable ones first. Are you still wondering what to do with ideas in SECTION 4? Trash them and move on!


Start experimenting

So you have a cool idea to start building (or validating) now what? This is where the magic of continuous innovation happens!

Experiment for continuous improvement
  • Experiments / Hypothesis or whatever you call them are a brilliant way to continuously test elements (features) that will together form/validate the complete solution. Experiments are based on Assumptions which have risk/confidence and other factors associated with them. So, in order to prioritise, you may use something like Reach, Impact, Confidence and Effort aka R.I.C.E Metrics. It’s simply a way to score experiments based on metrics you know. here’s a nice piece on R.I.C.E by Intercom if you want to read more and know more.
  • Experiments have 3 key components namely an AssumptionOutcome, Metric(s)Date. So if you’re writing an experiment, you can do something like I believe this assumption will lead to that outcome. We will know we have succeeded when we hit these metric(s) by this date. This is just one way to write an experiment, you can choose to write your own experiments in whatever way suits you.
  • The benefit of using experiments is that they’re measured and due by a date based on your budget or deadlines, which prompts the team to continuously innovate and deliver outcomes to the users one experiment at a time, instead of a batch release of a ton of features.

One goal can have many opportunities, one opportunity can have many ideas and one idea can have many experiments. Below is a quick representation of how your workflow may look like.


The whole idea behind experimentation is that you can try multiple solutions to achieve the outcome and place a bet on the one that sticks the most. 


The Golden Thread

Every slide you present, persona you write, line you code and a pixel you design can be connected to the top level objective and vis-a-vis; giving you a purpose and a process to continuously innovate with aligned autonomy.

The golden thread

Can you spot the Golden Thread?

Pushpinder Bagga

Pushpinder Bagga

Pushpinder is a pragmatic, data-driven, and detail-oriented product owner who is passionate about delivering digital products people love.

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