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Right and wrong. Where to start with your product teams.

An organisation is building a product. It needs two things. A team. Or several teams. A product backlog. Nothing will be built if one of these components is missing.

The Fifth Element. 1997.

Imagine

An organisation is building a product. It needs two things. A team. Or several teams. A product backlog. Nothing will be built if one of these components is missing. This organisation is struggling. The teams don’t know if they have the right people. They don’t work well together. They are dysfunctional and not performing. They also have no idea what the most valuable thing to work on is. What is going to move the needle on customer sentiment. On efficiency. On revenue.

 

The outlook for this organisation is pretty bleak. Sound familiar?

Survey

A topic at a recent Hypo team Connect session inspired a survey where the above scenario was posed. The intent. To find out what you would place more value on if brought into this organisation:

  1. Doing the right things in the wrong way – identifying the most valuable thing each team can work on, but then worked on in a completely dysfunctional way
  2. Doing the wrong things in the right way – coaching teams from dysfunctional to functional, but leaving them with no idea what the most valuable thing is to work on

The decision is not binary. Each respondent was given $17 to vote. A $10 note. A $5 note. A $2 coin. They were able to vote however they liked.

 

The right things in the wrong way OR the wrong things in the right way? Simple :/

 

Before the results, the case will be made for both ways of thinking.

The right things in the wrong way

The right thing should be considered as the most valuable thing to your organisation at that point in time.

 

Depending on the mission of the team, the right thing will differ. If the team mission is acquisition of new customers, the right thing for them will most likely be different to a team whose mission is retention. In some instances the right thing for one team may be detrimental to another team. This is not a topic for this article.

 

The reason it’s so critical to be working on the right thing is that it is the most valuable thing that a team can do with its time. It’s the greatest contribution it can make to the success of the organisation. Even if the team is working on it in the wrong way; at least they are working on the right thing for the organisation and can improve on how they work on it.

The wrong things in the right way

The right way should be considered as the most efficient and effective way to deliver a thing. It could be a software product. It could be a gearbox for a motorbike. The thing being delivered doesn’t matter. What matters is that it is being delivered in the right way.

 

The reason it’s so critical to be working in the right way is that if you aren’t, whatever you are delivering will not be delivered in the most effective or efficient way. It will take longer of course but there will most likely be quality issues, budget issues, emotional issues within the team. All of these will result in a poorly built product that may or not may not serve its intended purpose.

 

So although a team may be working on the wrong thing; at least they are working in the right way and delivering a high quality product in an effective and efficient way.

Why not have both?

A frustrated colleague sent a message to me saying quote “My god that survey offended me”.

“Why?”, I ask.

“Just the fact that you can’t focus on the right things and the right way”.

“The point is which one do you value more. In an org that has them both wrong”, I reply.

 

Organisations talk extensively about prioritising. Making the difficult decisions. This decision is designed to challenge.

Nirvana

Long term of course an organisation needs to get to focusing on the right things in the right way. This is a marathon not a sprint. But every marathon starts with a first step.

Results

To encourage participation there is a little Easter egg in the last question. Compromised the data set slightly but worth it to get the number of responses to the real question.

Summary

Final question

Of course all the coaches would say wrong things right way. And all the product people would say right thing wrong way. Right? Wrong.

What about the other capabilities…

So what?

We can draw the following conclusions:

  • Focusing on the the right things in the wrong way is a resounding winner in this poll
  • One reason could be that identifying value first will lead to knock on effects in the way products are delivered (this is an assumption)
  • There is not as much correlation within capabilities as expected
  • The data set is still small of course – more research is required

 

Balance

There is no one way to transform an organisation. Without organisational context it is impossible to say which approach has the most value. (Assuming only one approach can be done at a time.)

 

I can say with confidence however that a two-pronged approach will yield the most value for the organisation in the shortest time frame. 

 

A coach(es) focusing on doing things in the right way. While simultaneously a coach(es) focuses on doing the right thing. The two work symbiotically. That’s how you achieve organisational nirvana.

Discuss

This article is not intended to have all the answers. Merely a conversation starter. Those that want to take part in the survey can do so here.

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Tom Hacon

Tom Hacon

Tom likes product. He also likes getting stuff done. The combination seems to work. He enjoys reading. A lot. He also enjoys writing.

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For many in my line of work, organisational transformation has become a pipe dream at best, and a dirty word at worst. But it shouldn’t be that way, simple things like the ones practiced at my gym can make all the difference between an organisation facing growth or extinction in the 21st century.

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