In this ProductTank Oslo talk, Marty Cagan, founder and partner at Silicon Valley Product Group shares his thoughts on common transformation pitfalls.
It’s no secret that most transformations fail, says Marty. When companies undertake large-scale transformations, 70% fail substantially, he adds. While the odds are stacked against companies embarking on transformation drives, you can easily flip them by preventing common pitfalls.
Why do organizations need transformation?
There can be several reasons why organizations should transform, such as declining profits, technological shifts, financial underperforming, and strategic, preemptive, or structural change. However, Marty says companies should transform to leverage the available opportunities – ones they always fail to utilize to their benefit.
What defines empowered product teams?
So, what makes an excellent empowered product team? Marty explains the three key characteristics you need to build empowered product teams:
When it comes to cross-functional teams, many people think of back-end and front-end support; but Marty says there’s more to it. It is about ensuring you have the right, competent people in place, covering a wide variety of skills required to make a successful product.
Marty believes that empowered teams are those not only given the task to solve problems but to determine the best course of action to achieve solutions. Most importantly, companies must provide teams with adequate support and tools to address those pain points. Continually removing these resources will suppress their creativity, limiting future innovation.
Marty says every team should be held accountable for their respective tasks and solutions, including empowered teams. This accountability should go both ways toward the problem and the company. Eventually, if teams are empowered to invent solutions, they must take responsibility for their failure or success.
Common transformation pitfalls
Marty divides the pitfalls into two categories:
- External to product and tech pitfalls
- Internal to product and tech pitfalls
External to product and tech transformation pitfalls
He lists 10 external-to-product-and-tech reasons why companies fail to transform:
- Addiction to command and control management style
- CEO delegates transformation to another leader
- CEO hires a management consultancy
- Sales-driven product
- Market-driven product
- Project-based funding and staffing
- Predictability driven
- Technology as a cost center
- Outsourced engineering
- Overwhelming technical debt
Internal to product and tech transformation pitfalls
Marty mentions several other factors within the organization that affects transformation – although they are easy to address:
- Inadequate product managers (process culture dominates)
- Engineers only want the code (make sure to have at least one engineer who loves and cares about what to build in addition to implementation)
- The desire for a process (tools you pick dictate methods, so choose wisely)
- Too much keep-the-lights-on work, such as implementing GDPR, etc.
- Excessive initiatives are underway
- Increasing tech debt (most teams lack knowledge about how to manage tech debt)
- High pressure (empowered product teams have more stress than feature teams cause, unlike feature teams, they have real problems to solve, not to work on features only)
- Too much work
- Not enough control to be accountable for outcomes (product teams often say they sign for results for the products they can control and not the sales or marketing team)
- Outcomes are hard
Transformation is increasingly challenging and demanding. Although companies experience many odds against them, Marty says you can seamlessly flip those odds by preventing these common transformation pitfalls.
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