These three diseases are killing your product. Learn how to keep your product healthy
These three diseases are killing your product. Learn how to keep your product healthy
Just like any unbalanced organism or system, a product can suffer from diseases that will slow down or even stop its progress toward success. Andreea Ghic, Head of Product Management, offers you guidance in identifying and treating these product deficiencies from their root. To keep your product in healthy development, read her article now.
Andreea Ghic
5 min. read
These three diseases are killing your product. Learn how to keep your product healthy

Your product was first a concept daring to change the ways things are done in the industry, right? 


It all begins to get real when you properly start exploring it, setting goals, failing, and starting from scratch. This is when the concept transforms into an actual (young) product. 


To become healthy brands, able to scale up, products need special care, especially in their first years of growth. They get defined within the company by a series of factors that influence their direction as well as their development speed rate. 




Summary

1. What influences the healthy development of an innovative product?
2. How to bring clarity to a healthier mindset for your product?
3. What diseases can your product get if not handled well?
4. The cure: How to treat these product diseases?
5. Bonus section




What influences the healthy development of an innovative product?




Governance | Organization | People | Culture

says Magnus Mackaldener, awardee of The Ferdinand Porsche Prize, Senior VP of Scania’s R&D. 


Let’s explore the first two dimensions of the big four:




  1. Governance - defining processes, and decision-making patterns 
  2. Organization - the influence people have on the product: from ‘what’ to ‘how’ they are doing it. 



Are companies typically engineering or sales-led? Yes.



  • Engineering-led company = building focusing on the tech solutions resolving a problem.


‘It is rooted in the strength of the development team and what is possible with technology.’ 

says Brian de Haaff, CEO of Aha!


Instead of focusing on developing customer empathy, developers are given the space to come up with great ideas to improve the overall user experience.




  • Sales-led company = building focusing on revenue.


‘the sales team is the driving force behind customer acquisition and retention.’


This approach often follows the traditional marketing funnel where leads are qualified into marketing-qualified leads nurtured to become sales-qualified leads. 


Is that a problem? Yes, if not balanced well.


In a world where 8 out of 10 products fail, it’s not the production anymore as much as it became about the retention of the users on your platform or app. 


To do so, you need to go beyond what we’ve been told about the development of a product. 


What does that mean? To reinterpret product development by using a different, more complex mindset focusing on the value the product brings, the vision, and the why behind it. 


In short, it means switching gears to operate with a product mindset. 


Many recognize the need for transformation to become product-led, but the path to get there is often foggy.’


To make sense comprehensively within the entire organization, this needs to be understood by the Governance and Organization sides, to then naturally extend towards People and Culture. 




How to bring clarity to a healthier mindset for your product?


To understand what it means to be vision-driven product-wise, you need to understand the main difference between a project manager and a product manager.


  • A project manager is passionate about delivering a set of features. That’s the engineering-led mindset.
  • A product manager thinks about the change we want to bring to the world and is passionate about delivering that change to the user. That’s the vision-led mindset. 


What happens when your development mindset does not update to the rhythm of the fast-changing software industry and user behaviors? The product is prone to ‘get sick’, aka not responding to the reality of the users that it’s been born into. 



What diseases can your product get if not handled well?



1. Obsessive Sales Disorder (OSD)

‘Customer-centric means we give customers what they want’


Context

The team is constantly trading off long-term goals against short-term ones.

You focus on the short term and forget about the long term sometimes


Results

Features are delivered for individual customers, thus the product is fragmented, and the engineers are distracted.



2. Hypermetricemia

‘Measure everything! Test everything!’


Context

Obsession with metrics and analytics.


Results

The incremental product improvement is stuck at a local maximum.

It can happen that all metrics are awesome, but they are not covering the real problems or perspectives.



3. Narcissus Complex

‘If we just add this feature I know customers will use it. I know I would’


Context

The team is focused inwards and thinks about their own needs.


Result

A product that is disconnected from users' needs.



The cure: How to treat these product diseases?


Find the root problem of the disease


These diseases happen because we are often focusing too much on iterations, and on execution, and we are not driving those iterations with a clear vision and strategy. Thus, the main issue stands in the way we organize our work and how we weigh as priorities.

As this is usually a top-down responsibility, we address the above-mentioned Governance, and then, of course, Organization, to first acknowledge and start treating these matters.



The treatment breakdown: Velocity



Velocity = Speed + Direction



1. Speed 


Lean and Agile are important feedback-driven execution methodologies that give us Speed.



Think of Lean and Agile as the equivalent of a fast car - they help us innovate faster.

Now, consider customer feedback idling your fast car to ask for directions to make sure you’re heading in the right direction. Your foot is still next to the gas pedal, so no worries there. 

Both driving a fast car and stopping to ask for directions are super important. 
You can use speed and you get information about your direction. 

But where are you going? Before you drive your fast car or ask for directions, you have to know where you want to go - you are in the driver’s seat. 

1. First define the destination - the goal for your product 
2. Have a rough idea of how are you going to get there - map out the first steps
3. Make courage to ‘stop and ask for directions’ - measure the need your product responds to


Each step is essential. 

Create balance with these steps to get closer to the success you desire for the product. 


If you only focus on one of them, you will sabotage your product. 

Being Agile doesn’t work well without initially set goals. There is such a thing as taking the customers’ feedback too much into consideration. Frankly, Obsessive Sales Disorder (OSD) could grow on you without actually knowing it. 


Being Agile doesn’t work well without customer feedback either, as you’d fuel the Narcissus Complex


Adjust, but keep in mind your product’s unique value, and its phases to achieve that.


Speed can look like this, where we are all moving in different directions, but moving fast. That can still look like chaos.



To create velocity, speed is not enough. We need direction.



2. Direction


You need to define the direction of your speed so that all the arrows are pointing in the same direction. That’s what gives us velocity.




Remember


To maintain the health of your product, and create clarity to your direction (vision) should articulate the



  • Who: Whose world are you changing?
  • What: What does their world look like today?
  • Why: What does their world need to change?
  • When: When will you know you’ve arrived?
  • How: How are you going to change it for them?


The product is not your end goal, the change you bring is the end goal. Once you think about your product and the change separately, you can write the vision statement.



Bonus


Use the Radical Vision Statement that lets you focus on the essentials, so you’re not all caught up in too many words.




Andreea Ghic also co-authored, together with Catalin Briciu our latest free downloadable Essential Guide for rising entrepreneurs who want to futureproof their ideas and investments. This whitepaper comes together to provide you with a set of must-knows before you launch your next product or to bring clarity to your building process for the ideas already in construction. It focuses on market-responsive product strategies to make sure your idea isn’t only great - it’s also in great use. Download it now. You'll thank yourself later.




Further reads and resources:

The Essential Guide

Radical Product Thinking, by R. Dutt

Beyond the "Product Mindset" | Aha! software

Four ways to influence product development | Magnus Mackaldener 

The Product-Led Organization vs. the Engineering-Led Organization | Aha! software 

Product-Led Growth vs Sales-Led Growth: Which One’s Right For You? 


Read more
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