Achieving Quality and Speed ... With Three Easy Hacks
Lauren Lackey, Centauri Innovations
kHUB post date: December 11, 2019
Originally presented: November 5, 2019 (PDMA 2019 Annual Conference)
Read time: 5 minutes
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In my 31 years of product development, I have seen the struggle when developers are asked to trade off quality for speed, only to have issues in the back end of execution. Product developers are faced with many decisions on what to develop and how to deliver the consumer experience, which is a big task. However, developers also need to consider where and how the product will be sold and the cost of the product fitting into the business expectations. How do developers make the best choices and ensure that they get the best product in the shortest amount of time? This is a source of stress, confusion and frustration for developers across all industries. Well, I am here to tell you that you no longer need to choose quality or speed, you can have both!
Becoming an expert in these practices is a journey, but I do have three easy hacks that can get you on your way to developing better products, in a shorter period of time for the appropriate cost. Remember that practice makes perfect with any tool, process or shift, so stick with it and improve on it as you go.
Choosing speed over quality is becoming a chronic problem in product development, but why is this happening? Companies are under stress to develop the next best thing and to continue to generate excitement over and over again as markets become more saturated. As the never-ending cycle of continuous “wow” factors becomes the norm, companies are forced to put out products that are over engineered. There is a misguided notion that more features and benefits sell more products, and this is wrong. Features and benefits do not solve life struggles for consumers, they just make the product more expensive to produce. In addition, quality issues can be damaging to a product, brand and company, but tend to be a second thought to the initial launch. Quality issues are costly from both a financial perspective and a reputation perspective. However, this is not measured in a P&L, so it tends to be a hidden consequence.
Let’s talk about three simple opportunities to improve your probability of success as it pertains to quality and speed.
The first opportunity is to better understand your consumers’ struggle. I have sat in many strategy conversations and ideation sessions where the team believed that the secret to the next big growth opportunity was to add features and benefits to a product. Usually, adding more features and benefits ends up in a margin or pricing problem, but rarely does it end in the next big “thing”.
What is a struggle? It is a time when a consumer is in a certain context and needs a solution. In most cases it isn’t the perfect solution, but it solves the issue in the moment. This offers the opportunity of white space, space where another product can come in and solve the product…better than what they are currently doing. You must understand “better” so that you can develop with accuracy and efficiency. The best way to do this is to execute a true “Jobs to be Done”.
At the Rewired Group, we execute the original, complete JOBS exercise, however, for the purposes of this summary, I will give you a quick hack to figure out if you are truly considering the struggle of your consumer. If you can fill in the following sentence, “When I am ________, I do ________, so I can ________.” This sentence helps to check if you are looking at context and behavior versus features and benefits.
The second recommendation is to have a great Kick Off Meeting. This may sound remedial because of course your team will get together to talk through the check list of the project. A Kick Off Meeting is all about discussion, debate and alignment of the project. It helps to ensure that everyone is speaking the same language. “Healthy” to a Marketer is translated by a R&D person 1000 different ways. The R&D person runs off to make the product that they have put through their personal lens, all while the Marketing person believes that they explained exactly what they are looking for…result: launch date delays, missed milestones and frustration amongst the team.
Execute a comprehensive Kick Off Meeting. This should could be as long as a full day, depending on the complexity of the project. You should invite every function that will touch the project so that there is a clear, homogeneous understanding of the project and expectations. All of the functions will not be included in weekly updates, but they should participate in the Kick Off. Here are some questions that should be asked and aligned upon in the Kick Off Meeting:
- Are the expectations achievable and ownable by the team and its functions?
- What are going to be the risks for your team?
- What gaps does the team have in terms of people, budget, etc…
- How will the team communicate with each other and how often?
Thinking in a system is a critical part of building a successful product. As a product developer, it is easy to get enamored with your amazing design and engineering work…in a vacuum. At the end of the day, if your fantastic creation cannot make it through your manufacturing process or distribution, it is worthless. If it doesn’t work when the consumer uses it in their way, it is worthless. System Thinking requires you to think about the project from the raw materials until the product’s package is thrown away. What experience are you trying to provide for the consumer and does each part of the system enable that to happen?
Green Line Development is a philosophy that requires you to think proactively and systematically about the product development process. It is rooted in principles and tools that are anticipatory in nature. Green Line is critical because 80% of a product line’s life cycle costs are fixed by the decisions made in the first 10% of the program’s development time. Understanding your system early in the development process, keeps time, cost and resource needs, down. The cost of reacting late in development results in cost and time escalating in an exponential way as the work advances. This also breeds crisis behavior and hero mentality which are dangerous for an innovative culture.
Utilizing these three hacks will get you closer to success with your product development, regardless if you are working on innovation, core business, quality improvements or cost savings. These are all hacks that help to shift the culture to be more holistic and proactive, leading to products that have a better probability of success in market.