A new hope:A Redesign of a Product Development Process – part 2 5

This is part two in a series of blogposts where we look into a re-design of a Product Development Process. In the first part we talked about how we can think about value. In this post, we will spend some time thinking about how we can choose which value we want to explore first.

1. Understanding
2. Choosing
3. Exploring
4. Delivering
5. Learning

2. Choosing

…to have one choice is no choice;
to have two choices is a dilemma;
and to have three choices offers new possibilities.

–The Satir Model, Virginia Satir et al

So we have tried to define value, and we call this “Impact”. We have tried to say something about how much work is involved in delivering that value, taking into account the complexity and the unknowns of the task at hand. We call this “effort”.

Plotting this leaves us with a simple impact / effort matrix, where there might be some really juicy low hanging fruit ready for the picking. Maximizing value for your money matters to some folk, and they just go ahead and prioritize accordingly, but there are some really important limitations to this method that one needs to understand. The current situation that the organization finds itself in might warrant other ways of choosing what value to focus on. There might be a target group that is overlooked at the moment, there might be some stuff that we just have to do because of circumstances out of our control, and there might be some stuff that doesn’t fit our model (which is just fine, that just means we have an opportunity to improve the model).

I will resist the temptation to add “current situation”-aspects to the single impact tool, even though it’s strictly speaking quite possible to do so. The reason for this is my desire to separate value and context, in order to allow for these opportunity assessments to lie dormant for quite some time without loosing their relevance completely. We are of course quite aware that we can churn out opportunity assessments at a far greater rate than we can seize the opportunities described.

Understanding this puts some pressure on the organization to develop a firm understanding of their current situation. How this is achieved is a post for another day, though I have a preference for the TAIDA model from Kairos Future, combined with the visualization and tracking of a small set of metrics. Metrics, not targets. Very important difference.

For now suffice it to say, just-in-time decision making will not bring all its charms to the party if this awareness of current situation is lacking. Agility at this magnitude is something to strive for, but it puts a pressure on the organization that not everyone can handle, or even want.

Remember: the model for finding impact is based on a product strategy or, as in this case, a business plan. Impact in this setting is found based on how well the proposed value meets the needs expressed as goals in the business plan. If the business plan is flawed, one would hope that this process helps bring this flaw into the light, and that there would be incentives to adjust the business plan accordingly. The business plan is, as many business plans are, currently designed in such a way that all conclusions and recommendations therein flow from an analysis of the current state of affairs. This is usually referred to as a situation analysis. If that analysis is broken, the findings and goals in the business plan risk collapsing like a house of cards.

The process design carries a hope that the management team makes it their business to really and truly continuously work to understand our current situation, and that the rest of the organization makes it their business to continuously explore and understand options regarding value.

Moving on. The management team now receives a presentation and a recommendation from the group who has been involved with putting some thought into the impact and the effort. The management team is now asked to choose. I use the word choose most deliberately. It’s entirely possible to use the word “decide”, but that doesn’t necessarily imply at that there’s a choice, or that the act of choosing takes place.

This is important because we need the management team to choose between a number of options that are all known to the rest of us. Not simply “decide”. The difference is important, yet perhaps a tad philosophical. What we want is to avoid the confusion of mystery decisions. This is achieved by not only striving for a common understanding of “why this”, but also clarifying “why not that”. We want this because we understand that all value is relative, and that a really good idea can turn out to be our worst good idea if evaluated in comparison.


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