Leapfrog. Join the League of Product Rock Stars.

Up skill, Transform and Excel at Crafting. Digital Product Customers Love.

Framework for Product-Centric Organization

Introduction

Depending on the acquired experience of the stakeholders you interact with the secrets to organisational success may vary.

  • Some believe it’s about the ingredients. people, mentors, investors etc.
  • Some believe it’s about the process. Lead generation, User experience design etc.
  • Even more believe it’s about the systems. Agile, Lean, Customer Development etc.
  • A few believe it’s about the principles. continuous improvement, feedback loops etc.

In an era of constant and rapid change which of these will help organisations become successful is the question.

In Particular which of these will help software first product focused companies become successful is the question.

What does success mean ?

Success is all that we strive for. all our enterprising and experimentation has one goal. Success.

by success we don’t only mean material success.

  1. For some success is about self development
  2. For some success translates to creativity and creation
  3. For some success is all about making money
  4. For some success is all about changing the world

In the organizational context

  1. Success translates to maximizing stakeholder wealth
  2. Success translates to more revenue
  3. Success translates to new product development
  4. Success translates to sustainable business
  5. Success translates to acquiring more customers
  6. Success translates to making money

What is the proportion of successful software companies ?

We all venture out to succeed, but how many of us return home with the happy trophy. ?

Statistics aside, my own gut and experience tells me that in spite of the Invested effort and resources only a chosen few, a miniscule number is able to translate their hard work into business success.

sure, we cannot paint all businesses with the same stroke. There are many many successful businesses in retail , services, contracting, consulting and lifestyle segments.when it comes to software focused companies there are more failures compared to success stories.

In other words, the mortality rate of software first product companies is comparatively higher.

What drives success in innovative software solutions organizations ?

Successful business is very similar to high performance athletics. Every business aspirant is an athlete. Some run sprints, some choose tracks and some more run marathons.

selecting the right mode suitable to pace your business is important in the short and long run

In order to improve their craft, different athletes use different levers.

  1. Some work on their instincts and attitudes.
  2. Some work on their techniques to maximize throughput.
  3. Some work on their biological aspects of stamina and fitness.
  4. Some work on the right attire given their physiological structure
  5. Some work on strength training and environmental Optimizers.
  6. While all of this is important, choosing the right mode dictates the stimuli that will deliver the maximum leverage

Likewise in a business especially software product focused ones teams need to figure out their operating mode.

Is it the low hanging fruit for long term return on investment ?

is it the linear path or nonlinear trajectory ?

Is it about vertical integration or strategic alliances ?

the right fundamentals dictate the following choices.

What factors affect software product success ?

Are you wondering why we are discussing about beliefs, purpose, clarity, modes, performance and improvements in the study of secrets to software product firm success

According to Marc Andreessen of venture capital firm Andreessen-Horowitz, Software is programming the world All the Technologies required to transform Industries at scale across the globe is finally available for everyone and it works. Irrespective of this massive opportunity, software product firms big and small are collapsing without leaving a trace.

According to one statistic, the success rate of software product firms In b2c segment is 10% and the success rate of software product firms in B2B segment is 30%.

On the one hand we have a massive opportunity and on the other we have unprecedented speed and rate of failures.

What is the guarantee that your innovative software product firm will be a success ?

Why is this dichotomic phenomena happening in the first place ?

Are the questions that require further exploration.

In order to understand this dichotomy one needs to grasp 4 things.

  1. Ecosystem of connected and accelerated change
  2. Identification of disproportionate success factors
  3. Decision making Apparatus and risk propensity
  4. Prioritisation of strategic and tactical compulsions.

How is external change affecting product success ?

In any typical organisation there are only a few things that set in motion a Virtuous cycle of transformation

  1. Team culture
  2. Technology shifts
  3. New method adoption
  4. Noval distribution
  5. Innovations and
  6. Legacy deprecation

In the bygone era, any of this would change sequentially one at a time.

So teams had the breathing space between completing the implementation of a change and the introduction of another novelty.

Time to observe, process and cascade change was ample enough.

Given their disconnected nature and independent life cycles Having overlapping and cumulative change was never a possibility.

Unfortunately or fortunately teams do not have the luxury of business as usual anymore.

Increased cohesion in business functions and the interconnected nature of the business models Is creating a relay effect that is leading to Parallel and simultaneous change.

Teams that are not able to adjust to this new normal are struggling day in and day out.

In other words due to the accelerated nature of change in the ecosystem externally there is a Consequential necessity to change internally. Due to the connected nature of the business, a change in single business function mandates a permeating change in all other business functions.At the end of the day the external catalyzes the internal and vice versa.

Why is adapting to external change hard ?

Irrespective of the fact that the external change is uncontrollable, business teams are expected to anticipate and amend their course. If not at least react to stay afloat. Being left behind is not an option.

Pundits of Change management argue that in order to navigate a Change management initiative successfully teams need to get 8 things right

  1. Scope
  2. Stakeholders
  3. Vision
  4. Communication
  5. Plan
  6. Momentum
  7. Leadership and
  8. Tooling

Today single function Change management initiatives fail miserably. Modern businesses are expected to Handle multifunction across the organisation change with aplomb and ease. A tall call indeed.

With software being the real business driver, all of this must happen in real time. A slew of constraints with the ultimate goal to maximize impact and minimise disruption is imposed on fledgling software product firms right from the word go.

constantly anticipating, constantly communicating, constantly experimenting and constantly adapting requires a shift in mindset away from business transformation into business transience.

In the particular case of software this is even more exacerbated by continuous deployment, continuous improvement and Continuous learning culture.

While all of this change is happening, software product teams are expected to identify,select and prioritize those features that will deliver maximum impact with minimum disruption to customers and yet make money.This is such a daunting task only possible with scientific capability and customer mindset.

How to identify the organizational success factors ?

any organisation is a combination of physical and conceptual entities. capital, raw materials, vehicles, factories, machineries, people represent the physical entities. Purpose, process, structure, strategy, distribution, culture, patents and plans represents the logical entities

A mixture of physical and conceptual entities in the right proportion is essential to nurture a successful organisation.

What mix what proportion is the question plaguing business leaders today. For example, software firms require high quality talent. hardware firms on the other hand require high quality processes and machines.

Some of these lay the foundation upon which others are constructed. In addition to high quality talent, software firms also require capital, design capability, distribution etc in order to build a well oiled software product machine.

Harsh reality is that this mix varies from business to business. In order to identify the disproportionate success factors business teams must invest sufficient effort to understand the context in which they operate intimately. experts in business performance management categorise these factors into four groups.

ingredients, process, systems and principles. all of these needs to be given sufficient care in order to build successful businesses. Unfortunately a lot of businesses don’t use sufficient effort to bring these elements into their operational DNA leave alone the question of Getting their composition right.

What is the science of decision making ?

According to psychology, decision making is a cognitive process that is invoked when humans need to make a selection from alternative options. A capability and necessity for frictionless human existence. All of the decisions we make rest on an objective or subjective evaluation of options known to us and available for immediate consideration.

Our brains are processing each option for favourable outcomes. Every outcome is validated for its feasibility and investment required. Every investment is measured against an anticipated upside and an acceptable downside. In a way decision making is a deliberate process of deduction and analysis to arrive at a personal optima.

Decisions come in all shapes and sizes. on the one hand it’s split second and on the other it’s long and winding. irrespective of their nature they drain us of our cognitive energy and overwhelm us with tiredness.

Given the fact that we humans have to make all types of volumes of decisions, it’s only natural for our cognitive system to develop optimizers to prevent energy drain. Preserving human effectiveness throughout the day rests on non-reflective rule based systems called habits. Even in the case of reflective decision making we humans have developed optimizers. we call those Experiences.

Effective Decision making in Complex Environments

when we refer to decision making in the business context we are only deliberately discussing situations where there is a need for multidimensional reflection from different people.

Reflective nature of business decisions and the group context in which they are mostly made has to deal with human shortcomings and organisational politics. in a fast changing world of software product innovation these inabilities are multiplied by the velocity and volume of changes teams have to make and reverse.

Any hurdle against the smooth progression of Concept to reality leads to diminishing returns on opportunity and has the potential to derail the complete mission. Further, a lot of these hiccups can be avoided if teams can give up on bias, authority, conformity, procrastination, Imitation. delusion, instinctiveness etc..

Unfortunately, the quality of human decision making suffers due to lack of human self control, empathy, Sense of importance and judgement of priority. Really successful business leaders and teams get their act together on business decision making.

While it is not within the scope of this topic to elaborate on effective decision making approaches, we take cognizance of its significance and throw some light on techniques used by successful business leaders.

Ways to apply First Principles thinking in decision making

a lot of traditional organisations believe in top-down decision making. CXO’s and their henchmen promote decisions taken based on experiential knowledge. People with leadership mandates leverage their HIPPO status to push analogical hogwash as right decisions Without taking sufficient consideration for lateral alternatives that can deliver radically better results.

Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, Tesla’s Elon Must and Apple’s Steve Jobs are are known for their disdain for condescending decision making process. Instead of analogy they leverage first-principles like

  1. Disagree and commit
  2. Customer obsession
  3. Future back perspective
  4. Bottom-up valuation and
  5. Connecting the dots

to lay the groundwork for an effective decision-making process. When teams follow them, they give the prism through which all decisions can be made without bias.

Perspectives on Risk and Decision Making

While human bias is a major concern area, there are other factors that impact the efficacy of decisions. It includes but not limited to complexity, authority, delegation, culture, information etc..Each adding a dimension of unknown to the risk platter. Resulting uncertainty and grey areas put the best of decision makers and decision apparatus to paralysis.

Top thought leaders in decision making like Jeff Bezos argue for approaches that will foster business momentum. Preventing analysis paralysis is only possible when teams are empowered to make bets on incomplete information. Waiting to reduce uncertainty via information parity is a sure shot way of losing the opportunity.

Teams must become comfortable taking decisions with 70% of data availability. They must be acutely aware of the reversibility of decisions at hand and must develop the knack to identify risky and irreversible decisions. At the end of the day, smart business is all about minimizing risks and maximizing rewards. Trying to avoid risky decisions is a recipe for disaster.

Balancing Strategic and Tactical Decisions

Projects, Jobs, tasks anyone is assigned to do in an organization comes in all types of schedule, effort, importance, priority, benefit etc.. Everybody that is assigned to complete a task carries their own unique perspective and purpose. When the job at hand aligns with their operating principles, everything is fine. When they compete with their expectations, conflicts arise and team productivity suffers as a result.

Many folks are conditioned to respond to stimuli of self-interest. It is so entrenched that anything and everything is reviewed through this prism in such a manner that what’s in it for me overwhelms what’s in it for the organization. A major reason for this selfishness is the lack of altruistic and authentic leadership that leads by example. Once this selfish culture sets in, it is very hard to undo the damage. no amount of culture workshop, transparency and communication initiatives will yield the positive results we are looking for.

When it comes to balancing strategic (long time horizon) and tactical (short time horizon) this very same behavior comes into play. Our worry for the quarter and the desire to score brownie points overwhelms the focus and importance one needs to apply while evaluating the next best action.

In other words, everyone wants to quickly move from uncertainty of decisions to certainty of results. In this rush, they take shortcuts to enhance their personal standing without giving sufficient attention to the long term consequences of their actions to the well being of organizations as a whole.

Focusing on the urgent matters to the extent it doesn’t compromise on the important. When teams are not nurtured and coached with this consciousness of thought disaster strikes. It doesn’t mean that strategic is superior to tactical or vice versa. Both of them have their place. Placing too much emphasis on one to the negation of another is a recipe for disaster.

How adaptive learning systems help ?

organization can succeed as long as they set in motion principles, systems, process and ingredients to effectively manage

  1. Ecosystem of connected and accelerated change
  2. Identification of disproportionate success factors
  3. Decision making Apparatus and risk propensity
  4. Prioritisation of strategic and tactical compulsions.

Beyond the mere management, teams have to take proactive steps to ensure organizational survival and success. Each member in a team must own the accountability to move the needle in a forward direction for the organization. Challenge in front of company leadership is to make diligent efforts to identify and hire such leaders.

In the absence of depth of talented people, leadership resort to other ways of improving collective knowledge, top of which is having systems. A lot of well meaning founders believe that leveraging systematic thinking is a good alternative to overcome the shortcomings of people.

An organization’s ability to learn, and translate that learning into action rapidly, is the ultimate competitive advantage – Jack Welch

There is no doubt that organizations taking a systematic approach to learning always outsmart those that don’t. Often the challenge is how well those systems are built. A class of Innovators believe that systems must have functional depth while others believe that it is important for innovation to be cross-functional.

A few more think that systems should be black boxes while others think it should be a glass box. Each one of them works hard to build a perfect system. What they really end up with is ideological and rigid systems. While it is true that these rigid approaches provide a semblance of order and even some quick wins, however they struggle to withstand the shifting currents of the market.

Past success stories are generally not applicable to new situations. We must continually reinvent ourselves, responding to changing times with innovative new business models – Akira Mori

The old ways of working that withstood the test of time are crumbling, the hidden cracks are showing up. Organizations are recognizing the need to change and are experimenting with many methods, processes and frameworks to improve their adaptability and improve their odds of change.

Improvement approaches as highlighted by Agile, Lean, Scrum, MVP which were expected to bring in transformation to system design and development are only able to deliver incremental change. In fact, their simplicity in terms of rules and principles have forced organizations to create their own flavors that kill the very spirit they were created for.

Good Systems can only complement people’s capability but can never be a substitute for them.

Over depending on these systems to avoid the repeat of mistakes of the past without having sufficient involvement from people is ineffective and useless. With the diversity of attitudes, mindsets, motivations, capabilities and skills, people are quite unique.

Presenting individuals with right learning capabilities in the context in which they operate will be of immense benefit to them. When those on demand learnings are complemented by access to empathetic mentors, sensitive coaches, gamified learning libraries, instant collaboration platforms etc we have a personalized and contextualized learning path.

Guaranteeing individual and organizational success is only possible when teams connect ingredients, process, systems and principles with adaptive learning methods.

Strategic Product Management and Leadership

Digital Product Management Training and Leadership Tools

Be a product rockstar. We accelerate digital product success by enabling people, establishing processes and facilitating product development

Have any questions? We're here to help

Product Excellence. Simplified

© 2020 mcoach Inc.