What is a Technical Product Sherpa?

Product development should be a team sport, but occasionally you need that certain someone to act as a sherpa. Hopefully, that person is not afraid of heavy lifting. Knows when to lead and how to follow. Builds consensus on how to assess effort, risk, and reward. They are fantastic at inspiring and coaching teammates. They appreciate the unique challenges ahead while humbly knowing they have not mastered all of the lessons from the past.

Tapping our Collective Mindset

A recent study from the Kellogg School, explored how our beliefs about creativity can undermine our innovation efforts.

“People think their best ideas are coming fast and early,”  Kellogg researchers say. “In fact, you’re either not seeing any drop-off in quality, or your ideas get better.”

A reason for the belief in the creativity cliff is that we assume that innovation is a process for generating unique ideas. The reality is that creativity and innovation are far more likely to be “recombinative”, a process whereby we build on what has gone before. Bored and brilliant ideas are often phenomenal, but innovating alone is hard and together is just so much better.


Rework

Rework is one of the four types of activities in along with Planned, Unplanned and Continuous Improvements. On average, a software development team reworks about 26% of its code prior to a release. Research indicates that the lack of proper software testing and code review are the largest contributors to rework. Don’t assume mob programing, better requirements and collaboration will reduce the amount of rework. It may be the nature of how iterative design flows in your organization?

Net Promoter Score

A basic measure of customer sentiment, is now used by two-thirds of the Fortune 1000. Subtracting the percentage of Detractors from the percentage of Promoters yields the Net Promoter Score, which can range from a low of -100 (if every customer is a Detractor) to a high of 100 (if every customer is a Promoter) you can calculate something we call an earned advocacy score. It’s not just about chasing a number. It’s about segmenting customers to determine meaningful micro-nraratives.

Decision Making

A recent survey of Signal AI, which offers a decision augmentation platform infused with AI, interviewed 1,000 C-suite executives in the U.S. for the study. The report found 85% of respondents estimate upwards of $4.26 trillion in revenue is being lost because organizations lack the ability to make the best decisions and fast.

What are the biggest barriers to decision making?

44% Overwhelming amounts of data
21% Not enough time
16% Stakeholder alignment
19% Implementing the Solution

While deep learning is extremely valuable, and algorithms are fast, tunable and mathematically agile, they will not provide for pragmatic reasoning and contextual awareness.

New research shows that you can learn to be a better decision maker by watching other people navigate their choices. Good decision-making requires incredible self-awareness and pragmatism to combat biases, group think, hyperbolic discounting, anchoring, and our tendency not to rethink the painful problem space before jumping to rewarding solution.

Finally ask yourself “Is this a non-reversible decision?” If it is, always seek counsel from a few trusted outside subject matter experts.

Reexploring your Horizons

It is rare to find companies with an infinite mindset willing to embrace product pipeline vitality, flywheel funding and courage to solve the Innovators Dilemma. So many corporations are focused purely on competitive threats and executing to deliver solutions. Moving beyond Horizon #1 is not even a consideration. Of course, if you can not achieve your Horizon #1 business goals, then looking beyond that is not likely the best problem for you to solve. So while the pandemic has refocused some on inclussion, and others on resiliency/sustainability, it may be time to re-explore your horizons.

Prioritization Methods

Prioritizing is one of the most important skills of any organization or team. This is one of my favorite all time blog post comparing some of the more popular methodologies. Give it a read then discuss why your preferred method is best for your team, stakeholders and business. Also keep in mind weighting or correlating business priorities to prevent stakeholder alignment issues. If you are starting a new project or assembling a new team, put the Theory of Constraints aside and start with easy momentum builders.

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Do we overvalue speed?

Agile scrum artifacts are information that a scrum team and stakeholders use to detail the deliverables, actions to produce them, and the activities performed during the project.

We are guided by Agile Manifesto – Working software over comprehensive documentation. Justified by equivocating from the 12 agile principles.

Many have taken this to extremes, excluding high-level software designs and even release notes to get a product to market. There are circumstances when you may want to rethink the level of documentation you are providing. Do you have single points of failure in your organization that hold critical knowledge? Have you ever thought about the amount of time spent reverse engineering handoffs? Or how many times you have heard a software engineer state, “It would be easier to rewrite this thing rather than figure out how this works.” These are all considerations towards making an informed decision on if you are overvaluing time to market and undervaluing documentation.

Caveat: This does not apply to Minimal Viable Products, Prototypes, or Proof on Concepts.