Drawing Maps to understand your Organization and the future

The last 2-4 months I have been stuck with a few concepts like Zooming in and zooming out, breaking problems down. While the concepts are important my interpretations of them are very crude in retrospect. I say that because I believe what I have tried to encompass in 2 blog posts with more on the way, Tim O’Reilly of O’Reilly Media sums it up in 2 lines
Here is a snippet from his book WTF? What’s the Future and Why It’s Up to Us
Making Maps Continue reading “Drawing Maps to understand your Organization and the future”

Zooming in and Zooming out

I had recently heard a phrase, great leaders are good at zooming in and zooming out, it gave examples of Elon Musk and Steve Jobs.
While it didn’t strike me then, after a little while of thinking more about it, a few days, to be frank, it dawned on me, like many great sayings, there is a lot of depth in the phrase.
The oblivious one is that great leaders, pay attention, pay attention to the details, but also pay attention to the larger pieces, how those pieces fit into a larger story, why each piece matters, how the whole is more than the sum of its parts. Paying manically attention to detail on the small things. Paying attention to the small things can get operational, which might make one lose focus on the large goal
Zooming out gives one a larger picture, but it also gives a goal for leaders to rally the troops around. Another great thing it does is allow leaders to see the entire machinery of the organization turn in parts, which part moves the other, hopefully, find operational efficiencies to solve. But Zooming out is not easy, it requires a leader to understand the basics of each part of the business, zooming into the smaller parts. (Which is also one of the reasons great leaders tend to have a quote or anecdote on every aspect of running a business.)
The ability to zoom in and zoom out is also critical for Product Managers, talking to clients & leaders in an org requires the product manager to be in a zoomed out mode. It is the opposite when talking to the teams the PM works with, high-level goals leave massive gaps in execution plans, worse can cause confusion in what actually needs to be built. Product Managers need to be able to function both as a strategy: Mission – Vision level and also at a ticket and status level.
This is fact is also true for most managers, across functions. We unknowing set ourselves to zoom in and zoom out. Employees who always question why, question the status quo, are curious are in the early stages of being able to zoom in and zoom out.

The Product Death Cycle & Its Affect On A Startup

Life is tough for startups. Every day can be an existential crisis, every day can be a challenge to find your first set of customers or product market fit. In this search, Startups spend a lot of time thinking of the one feature which will differentiate them from competition, the feature which will make customers come in running to use their product. If you already have a few customers using your product and you notice growth stalling the most common solution startups think of is trying to find a new feature which you believe can be the catalyst for growth. Makes sense right? If people are not using your product you need to add a feature which will change that. So you ask your customers what they would like, and decide to build that in. Unfortunately, what this leads to the “Product Death Cycle”, something both Andrew Chen & David J Bland have documented. You should definitely give it a read to figure out the issue with product adoption & feature creep.
0_IM4EU55RompGiTOyIf you are early stage startup then you have more challenges:
SALES PITCHES BECOME COMPLEX
Your sales team has to pitch multiple features now. If the new feature is orthogonal to the current set, then they are going to have a tough time trying to figure out which feature to prioritize for each prospect.
MARKETING NEEDS TO PROMOTE MORE FEATURES.
Your marketing team now has more keywords to push, more landing pages to manage, generally more work to do.
SUPPORT & SUCCESS ARE OVERBURDENED
The same goes for your Customer Success & Support teams. The team now needs to work to up-sell to the current customer without more manpower, that means less success & support
NEW FEATURES = NEW BUGS
As you need to write more code, you will inherently have more bugs, which will take away time from your dev team who now have to resolve those issues.
MULTIPLE BACKLOGS
Product teams now have 2 backlogs to manage. Each feature will need more iterations
In short, it is going to push & stress each of your teams. Which will lead to friction, issues & arguments and finally, attrition.

In an attempt to chase everything, you may end up achieving nothing

Unless you have a lot of money in the bank which can help in hiring, you need to be careful when building new features, especially if they are totally orthogonal.
Also published ET Catalysts and Sudo vs Root
Photo credit: topgold via Foter.com / CC BY

Why people Fail

Last month something struck me, something I have been seeing folks do for the last 5 years. It resulted in this tweet:

Arrogance or Blindness by Ego
The very first is where entrepreneurs get so blinded by their ideas, that they don’t see the lack of traction or the lack of the need in the first place. Google never started with the mission to organize the world’s information, InMobi never planned to become the world’s largest independent Mobile Ad Network, they happen to see the right signs and kept moving forward. Never fail to see the signs of failure. People get so focused on the prospect of success that they don’t see these signs. They start dreaming of glory, the chance to “make a dent in the universe”, the chance to make it big in life and keep pushing their peers and company down an abyss of no return.
Ignorance or Blindness by Lack of interest
Then there are those who don’t see the growth and opportunity they have and instead err on the side of caution. Many independent App developers fall into this category. They build apps, get hundreds of thousands of downloads, yet consider their effort only a weekend project or a side project. They fail to see the opportunity that lies ahead.
Narrow Vision or Blindness by lack of insights
This one is hard to describe, many folks fail because they are looking at the problem from the wrong perspective, worse still, they don’t even understand the problem. This should be visible to anyone who ever has tried to look at any sort of Funnel Metrics. In a Funnel, if a phase is having a problem, it will most probably not be in the hands of the folks who manage that phase. If your sales team is not converting enough clients as before, it may be because they have gotten junk leads from the marketing team. In most cases, one team would be celebrating that they pushed their numbers up, but others will have more work. In most cases, folks will be looking to solve where the problem is noticed rather than looking upstream.
What are some of the cases of lack of learnings from failure you have seen?