Six Product Development Mistakes That Slow Teams Down

What have you seen?

  • I’ve seen executives who’ve talked to 2 leading customers and are convinced they know the entire market for the product

  • I’ve been told by nearly every department how to write requirements a winning product

  • I’ve seen product managers and R&D teams use the same methodology for software-only projects and electro-mechanical products (my specialty) and fail miserably. In SW-only products you can afford to design yourself into a corner to a certain extent, because recovery has less downstream impact than if you fail UL certification 4 weeks before market launch.


Have you run into the above prioritization conundrum?

  • Prioritization is simple. Know your deadline, markets’ needs and what you are trying to accomplish with the product–market penetration, saving the company from bankruptcy, introducing something totally groundbreaking (ala transparent aluminum), or simply a me-too product.

  • All feature/benefit decisions flow from this.

Have you seen sub optimal prioritizations being made? 

  • Every day, but in a complex electro-mechanical product with a global market and global supply chain, a sub-optimal decision for one facet or department may be the optimal prioritization for the entire program.

  • In these scenarios, we do not have the luxury of zealotry. 

  • The worst I’ve seen is when my product management department reported to the VP of project management. The only thing that mattered was “de-risking” the schedule which translates to a product with 2 guarantees: 1) it will be on time and 2) no one will buy it.


What has worked for you? 

  1. 80% rule–ship the product at 80% feature complete (97% quality)

  2. Duplicate yourself–Educate your development teams on your thought process, so they can keep moving even if you are gone/replaced. When your engineering lead comes to you and says we know how you are going to prioritize these features, but we need your sign-off, and they are 100% correct, you have done your job.


Is it an organizational mindset issue or an alignment issue?

- It is a mindset issue. Alignment happens when the mindset makes sense.

  1. Is the organization playing to win, or not to lose?

  2. It is OK for one product line to play defense (pay the bills) while another product line is trying to develop a brand new market. Just tell everyone this is what you are doing. That way there is complete understanding and everyone knows how they are supporting the future of the company.

  3. Align your people’s mindset with the firm’s. Not every technical person or PM wants to develop the next high-tech cutting-edge widget. Some enjoy seeing their product being efficiently manufactured. Others like seeing high gross margins. And others are good at their job but would rather be in marketing or field service. There are usually places for all types in a large organization, if the management or leaders are working to optimize their teams.