My ONE Advice to Product Development Teams

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“No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.” – Heraclitus of Ephesus

I have always believed that advice that works for someone in a specific context might not work for another. Times change and with it do people, behaviors, and attitudes. It is because of this, for any advice to be of any relevance, it has to be malleable enough to be adaptable.
The case is no different when it comes to product development. Product development teams today are living in the vortex of change. There is something new to battle every day – be it new technology, a new consumer demand, a new tool, a new development methodology, a new skill set…the variables in product development are always tipping in favor of a change.

Despite how unnerving this environment of change might look externally, I believe, for product development teams, these are all great problems to have. These challenges provide new opportunities to innovate and grow both professionally and personally.
However, I also believe that living in this change, transition, globalization, pressing times lines, increased competition, and increased pressure to roll out robust products owing to changing customer preferences, is anything but easy.

“How can you make the product better” has become the mantra for survival putting product development teams under increased pressure. Challenges are the new normal in the product development environment.

So how can product development teams navigate this new world, battle its challenges, and emerge victorious? My advice would be to do the hardest things first.

I know I had said that no generic advice could be considered good. However, this advice that I am giving is malleable. It can be used to suit your specific situation, circumstance, and time. That is what makes this relevant.

Now let’s come back to why I said that doing the hardest things first is the best solution for product development teams.
The power of value

If you read enough time management articles, you’ll see that these primarily tell you to do the easier things first. This gives you a sense of accomplishment as you see tasks being ticked off your to-do list. However, I have noticed, that most commonly, the easiest tasks are of the lowest value. They might be important in the larger scheme of things but do not necessarily help, assist, or complement the other moving parts.
Hard tasks, on the contrary, are almost always of high value. They form an important part of the big picture and have many associated dependencies. The impact of these tasks is also greater than simpler ones. Ticking off the hard tasks on your to-do list gives you a sense of real accomplishment because you manage to deliver greater value.

Think about it – what would make you feel more accomplished? Climbing a hillock or scaling a mountain? Hard tasks are like scaling the mountain. It is hard to do but hold more value, and hence the sense of accomplishment that follows is unparallel.
The power of momentum

“You don’t have to see the whole staircase; just take the first step”. This quote by Martin Luther King is one I go back to every time I feel like I am looking at a hard challenge.

When things look tough, we often tend to get overwhelmed by the magnitude of the problem. The trick to conquering this feeling is to break down the problem, identify its cause, and then fix it.

When it comes to product development, it makes sense to tackle the hardest thing causing a problem/issue/ roadblock, etc. for a very simple reason – it helps you set things into motion. When you identify the answer to the hardest challenge, you automatically get answers to your lesser value problems as well.

Once you get going with the hard things at hand early in the product development cycle, it sets the pace for your team, and the momentum keeps you moving. Once the pace is set, this momentum automatically accelerates in the right direction.

The power of value

If you read enough time management articles, you’ll see that these primarily tell you to do the easier things first. This gives you a sense of accomplishment as you see tasks being ticked off your to-do list. However, I have noticed, that most commonly, the easiest tasks are of the lowest value. They might be important in the larger scheme of things but do not necessarily help, assist, or complement the other moving parts.

Hard tasks, on the contrary, are almost always of high value. They form an important part of the big picture and have many associated dependencies. The impact of these tasks is also greater than simpler ones. Ticking off the hard tasks on your to-do list gives you a sense of real accomplishment because you manage to deliver greater value.

Think about it – what would make you feel more accomplished? Climbing a hillock or scaling a mountain? Hard tasks are like scaling the mountain. It is hard to do but hold more value, and hence the sense of accomplishment that follows is unparallel.

The power of momentum

“You don’t have to see the whole staircase; just take the first step”. This quote by Martin Luther King is one I go back to every time I feel like I am looking at a hard challenge.

When things look tough, we often tend to get overwhelmed by the magnitude of the problem. The trick to conquering this feeling is to break down the problem, identify its cause, and then fix it.

When it comes to product development, it makes sense to tackle the hardest thing causing a problem/issue/ roadblock, etc. for a very simple reason – it helps you set things into motion. When you identify the answer to the hardest challenge, you automatically get answers to your lesser value problems as well.

Once you get going with the hard things at hand early in the product development cycle, it sets the pace for your team, and the momentum keeps you moving. Once the pace is set, this momentum automatically accelerates in the right direction.

Accelerate your feedback loop

Feedback is a vital piece of the puzzle that helps product development teams roll out robust, error-free products into the market faster. However, understanding the customer and what she wants in a shape-shifting economy can be hard to nail.

Getting to know how your customers want to use your product, how they want to experience it, and what they want from the product down to the last detail has to be the core of product development teams. But how can they achieve this?

Apart from the usual suspects of requirement gathering, product teams can accelerate the feedback loop by working on the hard things first. Usually, it is the hard things that constitute the most crucial part of the product. Getting done with this part thus gives your product development team the bandwidth to roll the product out to a small group of beta users. You start gathering early feedback. You incorporate this feedback into your product development plan, and then you roll out the final version of your product. How do you think your customer base will react to your product then?

“Eat a Live Frog Every Morning, and Nothing Worse Will Happen to You the Rest of the Day”- don’t go by the false sense of security and the fake impression of progress that comes from simply completing easy tasks. Instead, battle the hard things first mainly because hard things need more heads-down time. They also net in bigger rewards. I’m sure you’ll agree that writing a screenplay is much harder than answering twenty emails. But which one do you think will matter later?

So, don’t let your day get usurped by tasks that you can complete easily while you let the hard tasks become herculean behemoths. Work smart by just doing the hard tasks first.

By |2019-10-24T14:48:05+05:30October 24th, 2019|

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