As often happens in these conversations we were digging into various practices. Something that seemed to bubble up was how often Product Operations or a product leader is expected to join the team and solve an existing practice ex. OKRs, Planning, Prioritisation etc.
Raise your hand if you’ve heard the following directive or something similar: “We do X and it’s important for the organisation. We’re having some difficulty with it and we need you to fix it.”
All 3 of us agreed that as we dig into the problem, we often start uncovering inconsistencies, confusion and basically just a hot mess.
Even the simplest of practices, have often grown into bloated processes that teams dread, are laborious and of imperceptible value.
Why does this happen?
This is just a theory, but I think it happens because teams rush to adopt a practice, then maybe add another practice on to that and so on. If an organisation has invested a lot of time and energy into the practices, they are cautious about deprecating them for a new one.
Rather than having a small set of practices that enhance the product organisation, we now see a mix of processes “fighting” against each other.
What I’ve often seen in most cases is that teams have forgotten the reason why they implemented those practices. The principles have been lost in documentation and guidelines.
Break it before you build it
Very aptly suggested by Alex d. at this point, often it’s our job to do two things to achieve success:
- Ask the purpose and reason why a process exists
- Break the processes completely in order to build them up to where they work together and once again bring value.
Both of these activities are very hard and will almost always get pushback, because they will spotlight operational debt and force the team to rethink what they’ve taken for granted.
Sometimes the hardest part is admitting that maybe you don’t need to implement a practice that every other product org has implemented, because it’s not working for you.
Maybe your organisation isn’t ready for that process yet and that’s ok to admit. Clean house first and then revisit. You may even find your own approach in that exploration.
I’ll leave you with this last message, North Star Metric, OKRs, Kanban, Agile, Lean etc. aren’t for everyone.
- If you or your team isn’t excited or inspired about the product you’re building and how you build it, then you need to rethink your approach;
- If the team isn’t growing in maturity and capabilities no amount of gimmicky practices will solve the problem for you;
- Remember, from my last newsletter, processes over practices;
- Go back to first principles thinking and ask why do you use a process? What problem is it meant to solve? Does it solve it?
We need to stop adding complexity to what is already a very complex and ever-changing product world and not be afraid to make those hard calls.