Find and fix bad news early
March 1, 2013
In our training work with technology companies, we find that product development and customer development are often only connected through a “handoff”. We call this “Asynchronous Development” and it often results in product failures. The alternative we provide is Synchronous Development (or “SyncDev”) which results in much higher success rates. We illustrate these different methods by the way two product teams view their “Bad News”.
In an “Asynchronous Development” team, developers work intensely to build their product to beta. Their stage-gate activities (or agile) are illustrated by the Gantt chart below. Then there is a handoff to Marketing and Sales and the product is launched.
Typically, it does not take off as expected, then management is in denial. Fast forward a quarter. Revenue is disappointing and customer satisfaction is poor. Senior management then takes quick corrective action. They try to improve sales training, tweak the product and hope the product will now deliver. Guess what, it doesn’t! It is destined for failure.
In contrast, the second team practices “Synchronous Development“. It is formed as a cross-functional team, blending product and customer development roles. Think of it as the sales funnel superimposed on top of the Gantt chart (see top of image above).
In this method, the cross functional team hits the road with a simple version of its product (i.e. Validation Prototype). It has a two-hour structured discussion with its customers, including product demo and trial closes. When the bad news comes out (and it always does), the team reacts quickly to change its product, prospect and pitch. This reduces their risk significantly and increases return. They often have a major win when they reformulate their Minimum Viable Product (MVP). They drop features their customers don’t care about and add in highly-rated features which they’ve discovered and validated in the customer’s environment. While the asynchronous team will hotly debate it’s MVP feature set back at the office, the synchronous team acts quickly to change it’s MVP, often in the back of the van traveling between customer meetings.
You want to know about bad news early, when you can do something about it, not late, when you are more likely to fail.