Big New Initiatives and Problems With Them
SyncDev is for big new initiatives: new products, markets and businesses; merger and acquisition due diligence and integration; and recovering from product-market mistakes. These are important but risky opportunities that require:
- An early, binary go-no-go decision with an early point-of-no return
- Substantial personnel resources, calendar time, and investment
- Scores of refinements – pivots–from inception to success
Failure to optimize the business model, correctly judge the business case, and find bad news early that would trigger mid-course corrections can be catastrophic. It can waste an opportunity and result in a quagmire of lost money, career interruptions, poor reputations, and legal problems.
Deciding product and business-model direction, judging risk and return, and steering toward higher return-on-risk is difficult for even the most experienced managers.
Traditional product development, design-build-sell, is the root cause of many problems because it puts customer engagement last. Big problems sound like:
- “Our product and business model didn’t fit the market. Bad news came late, after market launch, after the team burned through their budget and then some. Our company is now at stake. Bill, John, Susan… their careers are tarnished.
- “The front-end of our development cycle was long and fuzzy. We wasted quarters― more―almost two years while the team squabbled about process, product mission and design, and business model stuff: customer, price, channel.
- “The team never came together. Diversity that we thought was a strength was our undoing. Chen and Sam came from software, Lixin from hardware, and Jennifer from SaaS. But we never had shared experiences. Little things took weeks.
- “We wasted all that time! While we developed the product we could have lined up customers, partners, channels. Now, at beta we’re panicked looking for just testers instead of customers.
- “We scaled it before we nailed it. This turns a ‘small problem’ into a catastrophe.
- “Crossing the chasm.” Geoffrey Moore defined this problem in his book by the same name. It’s when demand of early adopters drys up, leaving a sales chasm.”
- “We died a long, slow death.” Had we gotten bad news early we might have pivoted or bailed out early when we were just 20 percent into it.”
Innumerable Smaller Problems
Problems result from people doing the right thing in the wrong way, at the wrong time. They think it’s right, but is slow and doesn’t do the job.
- Relying too much on data: Data alone doesn’t cause action. Action requires discussion. A shared team experience accelerates it.
- False positives abound. At the end of a meeting, your sponsor says, “Looks good. Keep me informed.” Fix it by taking next steps.
- Engaging customers too late. At beta, you’re too late. Instead, start at concept design and SyncDev prerequisites.
- Engaging in the wrong way. Teams interview customers and deduce what to do. That’s raucous, slow, and error-prone. At beta customers say, “That’s not it.” Instead, use scientific method.
- Engaging the wrong customers. Team pick prospects who are easy to access due to location and relationship. Instead, pick ones with the highest return-on-effort
- Hard to get funding. Warren Buffet says, “Don’t send me your projections. I’ve already seen them.” Instead, distinguish yourself with virtual backlog,’ quantifiable, referenceable customer interest.
- Hard to recruit team members. Tell them stories about customers and how they went from doubters to advocates.
SyncDev solves problems two ways. It reverses design-build-sell to sell- design-build. Customer engagement is contiguous with design, right where it belongs. SyncDev methods are proven and prescriptive. Going down the wrong path is unlikely.