This is often referred to as a death by 1,000 features and coincides with a 'Feature Factory' culture where the team is flinging features at the wall like spaghetti noodles to see what sticks.
It is easy to get into the mindset that you just need to add one more feature or tweak one more thing to lead to the next surge of success. There are many reasons why this happens, but most often it is a reaction to a lack of traction.
The challenge is to discover why you have a lack of traction and tackle that purposefully.
Whenever you feel like you are shooting a shotgun to ensure that you hit something, you need to press the pause button and find a way to get back to the sniper rifle. You need to step back and assess the situation.
- Do you need to reperform your problem discovery?
- Do you need to assess your solution and go back into solution validation?
- Are you in a market that requires a heavy educational component?
- Are you in a market that requires long sales cycles?
- Do you have Message market fit?
A lack of traction creates a myriad of issues. Solve this root problem as quickly as possible. One such example is when you have not yet bridged the chasm. If you do not have traction that you can follow then make sure that you have a clear hypothesis about where you believe traction will be and how you will measure it.
But, what is the real problem here?
Using Agile software development as a way to see what will resonate with the market is expensive. The feature bloat in the application causes drag on your value velocity and creates a deep well of many types of technical debt. The first is a bunch of features that did not deliver high ROI, yet still cost the same amount to maintain. Another is the constant iteration causes code fragility, creating unintended costs and quality issues. The list goes on and on, but can be recapped by recognizing that solution discovery iteration should not be performed via code. It should be performed via design iteration. Creating Figma prototypes is the perfect tool for this. That way when the features begin to be developed by the engineering team, they are building from solutions that have a solid base.
Yet, while that is a real cost, it is not the root issue.
The true impact of this approach is that of significant demotivation of your product team over time. I call this disillusioned apathy. It is where the team starts to think "we have been told this story before". This second guessing of the strategic directions quickly creates motivational issues. The team executes without really believing in what they are creating. They are just going through the motions.
So what you can you do?
First, you need to make sure that you understand your customer's problems. Ensure that you are solving real pains that the customer finds valuable enough to pull money out of their pocket to pay for. As the saying goes, if you are fishing in a toilet bowl it doesn't matter if it is half full or half empty because there are no fish there, you can only catch $#!%.
In other words, if you are just randomly throwing lures into puddles to see if something might bite then you are wasting a tremendous amount of time. You must refer back to the execution blueprint and ensure that you have successfully exited the problem space and solution space before returning to the productization.
Focus on Buyer value. Far too often when a lack of traction is present I see teams still iterating around feedback that is coming from users who are not buyers. Ensure that you first address buyer value as this is the fastest path to market traction.
To boost your team's motivation, bring voice of customer materials to your team. In fact, one of the best ways of doing this is to bring your customers and prospects directly to your team meetings. Hearing the pain first hand from your customer is something that motivates the team, generating empathy for the customer and making it easier for them to connect with the people they are impacting.
Make sure that your team understands that you are executing against a validated market problem that is painful for consumers. Make sure that your prospects identify with the marketing message for your solution. And make sure that your solution discovery is not performed with production code – especially for big leaps of faith.
Corrective Advice Recap
- Put down the shotgun, product is a snipers sport:
- Perform earnest problem discovery – find 10x worthy pain.
- Achieve message market fit.
- Perform earnest solution discovery – validate risky bets with mock experiences.
- Quit fishing in a toilet bowl:
- Align your strategic bets with your validated customer journey stages.
- Ensure buyer value before investing.
- Optimize delivery of buyer value to establish market traction.