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The best product teams I know have already



People are always searching for a silver bullet to create products, and inevitably people figure this out. That’s when the backlash begins.
I have no doubt that many people and teams are in some measure disappointed with the results from their adoption of both Lean
and Agile. And I understand the reasons for this. That said, I am convinced that Lean and Agile values and principles are here to stay. Not
so much the particular manifestations of these methods that many teams
use today, but the core principles behind them. I would argue that
they both represent meaningful progress, and I would never want to
go backward on those two fronts.
But as I said, they are not silver bullets either, and as with any
tool, you have to be smart about how you use it. I meet countless
and money—hardly in the spirit of Lean. Or they go way overboard and
think they have to test and validate everything, so they go nowhere fast.
And, as I just pointed out, the way Agile is practiced in most
product companies is hardly Agile in any meaningful sense.
The best product teams I know have already moved past how most
teams practice these methods—leveraging the core principles of Lean
and Agile, but raising the bar on what they’re trying to achieve and how
they work.
When I see these teams, they may frame the issues a little differently, sometimes using different nomenclature, but at the heart, I see
three overarching principles at work:
1. Risks are tackled up front, rather than at the end. In modern
teams, we tackle these risks prior to deciding to build anything.
These risks include value risk (whether customers will buy it),
usability risk (whether users can figure out how to use it), feasibility risk (whether our engineers can build what we need with
the time, skills, and technology we have), and business viability risk
(whether this solution also works for the various aspects of our
business—sales, marketing, finance, legal, etc.).
2. Products are defined and designed collaboratively, rather than
sequentially. They have finally moved beyond the old model
in which a product manager defines requirements, a designer
designs a solution that delivers on those requirements, and then
engineering implements those requirements, with each person
living with the constraints and decisions of the ones that preceded.
In strong teams, product, design, and engineering work side by
side, in a give-and-take way, to come up with technology-powered
solutions that our customers love and that work for our business.
3. Finally, it’s all about solving problems, not implementing
features. Conventional product roadmaps are all about output.
Strong teams know it’s not only about implementing a solution.
They must ensure that solution solves the underlying problem.
It’s about business results.

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