The speed of product development is just a feeling

You know, I often get a very strange itch, when on a long-distance flight: After let's say 3-5 hours after take-off, when I've watched the first 0815-movie, looked through the stuff on my iPad, tried to connect to the non-existing wifi - I sometimes hope for turbulence. Not because I'm with my own Tyler Durden, but because it gives me a feeling of "moving forward". Meaning that something is actually happening with the plane and we are making progress towards the destination. I catch myself smiling sometimes when then actually some bumps happen.

Also I'm pretty sure the captain of the plane I'm riding is doing everything to keep the flight without disturbance and does not need any kind of additional confirmation of progress. He has it right there in the cockpit on his instruments.

I think with one's stakeholders its actually the same, but the other way around: Here the captain has no sense of speed and the development team does everything to keep things running smoothly and at good pace.

A situation of being "too slow"

Today this occurred to me in a meeting where the whole development-team, including online-marketing, product-manager and major stakeholders were present: The team had made good progress in the last weeks. Product development had launched several new content-sites sites, whereas online-marketing had bought traffic at a CPC just the third of the planned price.

Still the major stakeholder was under the impression that things were moving "too slow" and there was "two much waiting for stuff". He himself was not part of the day-to-day activity of the team.

This kept being strange until he showed the team some numbers that showed a significant problem in a conversion-rate that he was trying to increase. Numbers that nobody in the team had seen in the clear up until that point.

The mood changed: The team went from disappointment about the "being too slow" to trying to solve the given problem and suggesting solutions. We left the meeting with several actionable steps.

As a stakeholder you are passenger on a plane.

This got me thinking: As a major stakeholder on a product development project you are most likely like a passenger on a plane. You have chosen a destination, but the thing is piloted by somebody else. Only the pilots really know where you are and how fast you are going. If you have given incomplete information about your destination, you'll probably end of in the wrong place.

But more importantly: During the project you have no sense of progress. You have to produce indicators about "speed" by joining dailies, checking up with product management, but more importantly to make triple sure that you plane is heading in the right direction.

Cause even if you have gotten to a feeling about the speed of your product development. You'll still find it "too slow" if progress is not made in the right direction.

Too slow = Too few information

There is also something peculiar about the idea that product development is going "too slow": Let's assume you have hired capable and willing people to do your product development. Most of the time the explanation for "too slow" is being "too slow" towards a given business goal. So "too slow" means that either requirements are too complex or time is too short. But since you hired capable and willing people those people would suggest ways to reach to biggest possible business value towards the goal in a given time, meaning they are working at „top-speed“. If these people are actually „too slow“ they would not be capable or willing to do the job, which is a problem solvable by itself.

So if they do not find a way to reach „top-speed“ (most business value towards a goal in given time-frame) they most probably don't know enough about the goal. Simple as that.