6 product management nightmares to keep you up at night
6 PM nightmares, brought to you by Productboard, 280 Group, and mastermind Dean Peters
Just when you thought your strategy was safe — your product vision clearly defined and your roadmap carefully scheduled and planned — we introduce the new and disturbing PRODUCT NIGHTMARES, coming to you in the form of 50s and 60s B-horror flicks.
Stay aligned or beware — these nightmares will start consuming you alive!
The Feature from the Backlog Lagoon
Many product organizations have the bad habit of saying yes to all feature requests coming in from customers and across the organization. They never plan to actually follow through, but the requests get tossed into a watery swamp of a product backlog anyway. All these unfulfilled promises begin to build, eventually becoming a toxic dumping ground — a black backlog lagoon.
Then the day comes when somebody (probably one of your big-ticket customers) comes to collect. Rising out of the primordial muck, the beast from your backlog lagoon appears — usually at the worst time possible — killing off your highest-value stories, scaring away your stakeholders, and wreaking havoc on your roadmap planning.
When the Scrum process takes over, Scrumzilla wakes up and stomps on your entire organization. Everything is about “getting the process right” as opposed to delivering value. And when this happens, the nice little bridges and towers you defined in your roadmap get stomped into smithereens. Prioritized feature requests get scorched from Scrumzilla’s hot breath.
Scrumzilla destroys your roadmap so it becomes nothing more than a smoldering mess, and your vision of the future gets reduced to nothing but debris.
Frankensoft is the hideous child of products and features that get mish-mashed together without any regard for strategy or user experience. Upon a retrospective, the beast realizes he is the opposite of a unified set of products and features — that he is horrible!
His horrifying existence can be attributed to random acquisitions, third parties, or siloed departments where different software gets bolted together. When the electricity is turned on for the release, that’s when the mad DevOps engineers maniacally proclaim into the boiling sky: “it’s alive! It’s ALIVE!!!”
Escape from the Feature Factory
In a Feature Factory (a term coined by product thought leader John Cutler), product orgs are trapped in a dystopian, output-focused culture. This addiction to activities leaves teams without an understanding of the actual impact of their work.
This leads to teams slaving away under weaponized velocities set to 120% optimization without a strategic purpose. The result is a mediocre hodge-podge of unsustainable complexity that fails to provide long-term value. The only escape is to make a break for an outcomes-based paradigm shift, provided they aren’t first crushed under the weight of shiny objects and invalidated hypotheses
Night of the Living Bugs
Night of the Living Bugs sums up the experience of product owners who inherit backlogs and products where technical debt and bugs have been swept under the carpet. Once the carpet is lifted by the unsuspecting and newly arrived PO, a Pandora’s Box of painful, wasteful, and expensive non-functional requirements and faulty code are inflicted upon any future sprint planning.
As a product owner, your only hope is to reach for a can of test automation and feature prioritization to repel these pests from eating up your carefully planned product strategy and roadmap.
The Dangerous Animals of Product Management
Whether you’re dealing with the hungry HiPPO (Highest Paid-Person’s Opinion), the venomous CoBRA (Cognitive Bias-Related Assertions), the charging RHiNO (Really High-Value New Opportunity), or another Dangerous Animal of Product Management, these challenging stakeholders and situations left to run wild can cause a nightmare for your product and business. The solution? Learning to influence without authority, and training your stakeholders to think more like product people.
Dean Peters is a principal consultant and trainer with the 280 Group whose superpower is cutting through the chaos and bringing people together to deliver valuable software early and continuously — all while guarding and growing the underlying culture that is critical to long-term success.