A framework to identify issues to unblock growth

Here’s a good analogy from Josephine Conneely to help figure out why growth might be stalling:

Imagine each of the 3 criteria pillars, Product, GTM and Org, as legs of a stool. Ideally each leg is of even height. This allows it to sturdily hold whatever is needed (in this case it’s increasing user volumes). Each leg can continue to grow (perhaps this is some sort of stool tree), and as long as the legs grow in tandem the success metrics of choice are safe. However, there may at times be an imbalance. Imagine an organisation with a great sales and marketing team who have created such demand that the product is struggling with performance issues as it scales to meet increased usage volumes. This leads to a lopsided stool, which while functioning, is not operating in manner which enables the org to capitalise on growth potential. If the product issues are not rectified, this could result in churn, reputational damage and a negative growth trajectory. Imbalance leads to lost opportunities.

Read the whole article for an illustration of the concept, and also how to use the framework in practice.

What you can learn from watching Predator 146 times

I never thought that I’d want to read a book about a guy who watched Predator 146 times. But Shooting at Nothing: An Interview with Ander Monson convinced me otherwise:

In following every rabbit hole of his obsession with the film through to its end, Monson creates a book that is truly one-of-a-kind—not just a dose of nostalgia for movie buffs, but a revelatory investigation for anyone who’s ever really loved a singular piece of culture, enough that it got tangled inextricably in their identity and could never quite be excised. In Monson’s own words: “I believe that if you look long and hard enough at what you loved best at fourteen and how you lived then and what you saw in the world, it will reveal both the world and you.” As the pages turn, a question inevitably arises: What have you loved in the way that Monson loves Predator? And, for better or worse, how has it made you who you are?

Return To Office: the wrong solution for remote work challenges

In Official myths Mandy Brown talks about how we are trying to solve the legitimate challenges of remote work by blindly (and incorrectly) assuming that the solution is going back to the office:

In many a remote-critical piece I’ve read, there’s a kind of mythical office that remote culture is being compared to, a place where everyone is welcomed, where collaboration and support is easy-going and automatic, where everyone is always whiteboarding or talking in the hallways. It’s kind of astonishing to see how much this presumed office utopia has become implicit, given we have literal decades of satire about offices as locales of poorly lit, soul-sucking, isolated work, where you are more likely to be abused by your boss than sponsored by them.

She goes on to explain the importance of supporting junior staff, and how office environments are often not ideal environments for that.

The nature of product

You can scale with process, or you can scale with leaders. The only way that leads to good outcomes is scaling with leaders.

— Marty Cagan, The nature of product on Lenny’s Podcast

Create awareness of reality through bottom-up strategy

Tim Casasola’s post Create awareness of reality through bottom-up strategy points to an issue that we often see in teams—the work that they are doing is disconnected from the company’s core strategy:

There is often a difference between what an organization says its strategy is and what customer/project teams do on a day-to-day. When this dissonance is present, customer/project teams share with the org that their reality isn’t aligned with the organization’s vision. “It’s great that we want to pursue this new customer segment, but most of our engineers are focused on improving the experience of our current customer segment… and we’re far from where we want to be there.”

And yet, the org still says they have a “strategy.” The org turns a blind eye when customer/project teams describe their reality and relies on its existing narrative when feeling challenged.

The organization needs to be aware of when this dissonance takes place. So that they can learn from it, and come up with an actionable strategy.

Tim points to John Cutler’s “Bet Up” activity as a useful exercise to make this disconnect clear:

This seems like a really useful exercise for teams to undertake. It might also be really interesting to ask the executive team to fill out row 4 of the above, and see how their answers differ from what the teams come up with. Exposing a big strategy mismatch in such a clear way could be a really powerful tool to move the organization in a direction where a team’s day-to-day work is reflected in the overall product strategy.

I Didn’t Want It to Be True, but the Medium Really Is the Message

And so the line of Postman’s that holds me is his challenge to the critics who spent their time urging television to be better, rather than asking what television was: “The trouble with such people is that they do not take television seriously enough.” I have come to think the same of today’s technologists: Their problem is that they do not take technology seriously enough. They refuse to see how it is changing us or even how it is changing them.

— Ezra Klein, I Didn’t Want It to Be True, but the Medium Really Is the Message.

Leadership and product strategy lessons from Reid Hoffman

Ben Casnocha has a long, excellent piece entitled 10,000 Hours with Reid Hoffman: What I Learned, in which he shares a bunch of lessons he learned from then LinkedIn founder:

A lot of strategists (and CEOs) think that their job is to conceive a strategy and then hand it off to the underlings to execute. They might concede that delegation matters, but usually as a matter of execution more than strategy.

Reid disagrees. He once told me, “Whoever is actually immersed in the actual execution of a strategy should always think of ways to tweak the strategy for the better.” It’s a litmus test for talent: How do you know if you have A-players on your project team? You know it if they don’t just accept the strategy you hand them. They should suggest modifications to the plan based on their closeness to the details. And as they execute, they should continue to tweak the strategy, and you (the owner) should not feel a need to micromanage or second guess—if you do, you’ve got the wrong person.

The whole piece is full of wonderful gems like that. Highly recommended read.

Simple product design is about removing the forces that block users

Kate Clayton wrote an excellent essay on simplicity in design that goes way beyond the usual platitudes. From Be an Elegant Simplifier:

When I saw Danny Kahneman speak at a meeting last year, he shared a similar principle to the Crystal Goblet he took from psychologist Kurt Lewin, who, like Beatrice Warde, was active in the 1930s. Imagine, Lewin said, you have an object with forces pushing against it from opposite sides. Human nature would say if you want it to move one way, add more force to one side. But Lewin advised against this. A much stronger solution, Kahneman said, is to remove the force blocking the user’s way. Eliminate some of the muck.

This principle is very close to the product forces concept of Jobs-to-be-Done, and it’s great to see it framed from a slightly different perspective.

Turn customers into a coalition of defenders

I love this sentiment from Rich Ziade in the post The New MVP: The Minimum Valuable Product. He talks about what happens when customers become a coalition that shares your mission. This is written from an agency perspective, but it applies just as much to product companies:

There is no more powerful political tool than releasing good software into people’s hands. You’ll find that the burden of consensus-building and campaigning is far lighter because the thing speaks for itself. It’s something you can draft behind to keep going.

Rinse and repeat. Done right and you’ll bank some political capital. You’ll need it along the way. Mistakes will be made and you will be blindsided by who-knows-what. Ideally you’ll string together a few wins that continuously impress people. Trust increases, anxiety decreases the temperature has gone down. What were once your customers will become part of your coalition, defending your product and mission because it is now their product and mission.

“…it is now their product and mission.” That is an excellent goal we can all aspire to.

It’s not about the clicks

Page Laubheimer explains that The 3-Click Rule for Navigation Is False:

The 3-click rule is a persistent, unofficial heuristic that says that no page should take more than 3 clicks (or taps on a touchscreen) to access. A variation pronounces that the most important information should take no more than 3 clicks to get to. […]

The big problem with the 3-click rule is that it has not been supported by data in any published studies to date. In fact, a study by Joshua Porter has debunked it; the study showed that user drop-off does not increase when the task involves more than 3 clicks, nor does satisfaction decrease. Limiting interaction cost is indeed important, but the picture is more complicated than simply counting clicks and having a rule of thumb for the maximum number allowed.

YES. I’ve been on this bandwagon for a long time. In 2013 I wrote in Don’t optimize for the fewest number of clicks:

Let’s get away from this idea that we should optimize for the fewest number of clicks and taps. Instead, we should optimize for an information architecture and visual hierarchy that makes the next step as obvious as possible.

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