John Cutler

@johnpcutler

10 Product Development Traps

January 2nd 2019

These are not “rules”, but rather tendencies. We seem wired to go in one direction, and have to actively offset the tendency. I’ve fallen into each of these (repeatedly) over the years, and have observed extremely savvy product developers do the same. How do you avoid them? Two things stand out: 1) visualize the work and limit work in progress, and 2) make it safe for team members to call out tensions, lack of coherence, etc.

I’m writing a book that covers these traps and more. You can check it out here. I’d love your comments.

  1. We underestimate the amount of work we actually have in progress and the impact (of that high WIP) on flow, quality, and value delivered…and overestimate the value of parallelizing work
  2. We underestimate the drag created by dependencies, constraints, hand-offs, reviews, etc. … and overestimate our ability to navigate them, play Tetris, and thread the needle
  3. We underestimate the impact of “lights on” and “business as usual” type work…and overestimate our ability to tackle these issues without a big hit on flow
  4. We underestimate what the current team can do with support, trust, safety, and letting go of past grievances… and overestimate the value of consultants, “fresh faces”, and process fixes
  5. We underestimate the difficulty of creating lasting shared understanding and the speed with which understanding degrades…and overestimate our ability to “align” with one-off meetings
  6. We underestimate the value of converging late…and overestimate our ability to “sync up” the understanding of small planning groups with “the teams when they start”
  7. We underestimate the positive impact of high quality on future value flow…and overestimate the incremental value of cutting corners and shipping early
  8. We underestimate the value of diverse perspectives, ideas, pairing, swarming, etc. … and overestimate efficiency gains by farming out work to individuals (individual backlogs)
  9. We underestimate the non-engineering costs associated with new features…and overestimate the degree to which individual features make/break the product (vs. the overall experience)
  10. We underestimate the potential value in pursuing risky/uncertain opportunities…and overestimate the value of “sure things”

Have any to add using this form (underestimate … overestimate) ? Please let me know in the comments.

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