Essential steps to building great products + services

Last Friday, Brainmates brought together an impressive line-up to talk about creating great products. The talks were linked through 4 steps of product creation:

  • idea selection
  • product design
  • product team
  • launch

The 4 speakers shared their experience in that area for the audience to walk away with a holistic inspiration for building great products.

Warren Wan kicked us off talking about idea selection and opportunity assessment steps at MyFitnessPal. His perspective is from building a start-up, which is often different to working on products at a large corporate, but in a short half-hour he shared a number of insights, including:

Three things are needed for a start-up to succeed:

  1. something the founder needs or believes in
  2. something they can build
  3. something few others think has value in it

MyFitnessPal’s founder, Mike, started out this way – with a need to lose weight in time for a wedding and frustrated by the standard calorie counter books that were handed out at that time. The available products didn’t match or suit the moment when you were actually at the supermarket needing to assess the calories in food and they certainly didn’t help with the calorie count at a restaurant. Mike went on to teach himself programming so he could build the solution himself.

MyFitnessPal are now in the growth phase and they still focus on the core use case – which for MyFitnessPal is the best in class experience and the food database. With a start-up, over-extending your limited resources is not something you can afford to do so this focus is incredibly important.

They choose to work on ideas that increase the user funnel (overall traffic), that assist with app store placement (currently top 3 app in over 65 countries) and funnel optimisation.

Warren had some important points to add regarding funnel optimisation.  Registration is thought of as something that needs to be fast but MyFitnessPal they found this is not an area to shortcut. The more information they can get about their user, the more they can do to support the users’ goals and journey. While that will see fewer sign-ups, the value the user feels by continuing through the process, the better job MyFitnessPal can do with calorie guidance and thus a better value relationship is created.

warren presenting

Other important concepts in idea selection are to iterate quickly & listen to the user. It’s important not to overbuild. It’s more important to ship. Every employee listens to support queries so the whole company feels the mission – and understands what the user needs.

Now in the growth phase with the option to hire and go beyond a one-man start-up, there is room to think about hard problems (with big returns). Warren described this as a “widen the moat” strategy – to focus on efforts that drive differentiation between competitors.

The culture at a company needs to support everyone having a voice, and MyFitnessPal concur. Warren explained the “amazon two pizza rule” which is a way to think about team sizes. The analogy is a helpful way to think about how to organise teams – the optimal number of people in a team can be fed with 2 pizzas. MyFitnessPal have sorted their teams around feature groups, to help with purpose and focus and knowing the number of pizzas to order 🙂

Next Lisa Wong took us through the next step in creation of a great product – the design stage. Lisa is director of product and user experience at eBay, Australia. Lisa pulled no punches:

“a product designer and a product manager are not the same thing”

If product managers aren’t designing what are we doing, what are we doing? We are defining the vision. Lisa asks her product team to define the product plan which is made up of just three things:

  1. What do you want to deliver
  2. Vision/product approach
  3. Roadmap

Easy right? Never underestimate/misunderstand the probability of miscommunication. What does this mean? It means the PM’s job is to over-describe and over-explain what is needed. A PM can get sucked into getting feedback, prioritisation and the tactical steps.

If one is so “execution focussed that they are not interested in the reason behind it, then success is a gamble”

Lisa’s guidance for her team to help rise above this is:

  • Articulate what you want to achieve
  • Establish a frame of reference (common ideas)
      For eBay, this was using a store or a warehouse as a metaphor for the digital landscape
  • Over-describe and over-explain what you mean
      You can never do this too much! There are lots of available tools so use all of them or whichever you need at the time. Use personas, mental models, customer journeys, mood boards, click path analysis, create mental dialoges, etc. Make sure they are are built from observation and data – not from asking.

A theme starts to emerge at this point as Lisa also reiterates comments that Warren has made.

“if you never execute and get out to market you never make money”, so “done better is better than done perfect”.

The focus naturally now shifts to the team and people you need for building great products and this was nicely covered by Henry Ruiz, Chief Product Officer at REA Group.

When looking for people at REA, they look for core skills that include product marketing, conceptual skills, ability to get into the market, ability to predict the market and to be authentic people that influence without authority. This last one is about hiring nice people 🙂

Henry said REA not only looks for high competency but high self-esteem and low ego. Refreshing to hear this articulated about your product management people and hiring process.

The way in which REA frames their work is the 3C’s:

  • Context
    • The problem statement
    • What is it the customer is trying to achieve
  • Concept
    • The success criteria
  • Content
    • The product idea
    • Where a lot of people get stuck and lost in without having defined the previous two.

The power of the product manager is in helping others see the context and the concept before they get lost in their product idea and thus ensuring when they do, it will be to work on the right component that needs solving at that time.

Henry presenting

Henry took us on a journey through the “co-creation approach to develop product concepts” at REA. Like most companies, REA have more than one stakeholder to consider – the real estate agent, the seller and the consumer.

In order to ensure they never tug too strongly for one stakeholder and end up hurting another, they ensure a balanced score card is in place for all 3. This helps them build solutions that bring value across that market. Such a disciplined approach leads them to create “sweetspot” concepts repeatedly.

Last, but by no means least, Jane Huxley, currently at Pandora internet radio, led us through launching a product. With experience across many products and industries, from Microsoft, to Vodafone, to Fairfax and now Pandora, Jane shared her experiences with a great deal of humour.

Launch success criteria have changed over time and certainly since Jane’s time at Microsoft. Jane was quite clear that now a launch is “not a date on the calendar” that you can get to and be done. One of those reasons for change is due to the types of products of that time when you would know how well you were doing by the simple(r) maths of the number of products shipping out the door. Now, your parameters for success have changed and Pandora understood that by giving Jane a year to plan for launch.

The support that she had by working with Pandora allowed for options that might not have otherwise been available – Jane called this standing on the shoulders of giants. One needs to make sure it is clear what you do and why you exist – for Pandora that is about being clear that they are targeting the 80% of the market of that are passive listeners of music, they are not after the active listeners that Rdio, iTunes, and MOG etc are after. This is how Pandora stands out from the rest.

The ambiguity that one has to be comfortable with and is necessary to launch and manage products now is something she guides her people on as she recruits them. Jane’s advice is to focus – remember what you said you were going to do in the 1st place. Pull out that napkin or beer mat where you wrote the idea down and as the noise of a launch tries to suck you in, pick up that napkin and remember why you are here. Spend the time beforehand to stave off the biggest risks before pulling the trigger.

Lastly, the viral secret sauce! When someone adds 2 personalised station, they 8 other users within a week. When we discover something new we are compelled to share, so Pandora’s secret is their personalisation + discovery.

And there was one final piece of advice, which I think wasn’t just about launching products – keep calm and play the long game. Jane wrapped up the entire talk with this statement as it rose above all the valuable tactical advice she had provided and essentially reminded us all not to sweat the small stuff.

The summary of advice from Jane to launch successfully:

  • Stand on the shoulders of giants
  • Stand out from the pack
  • Focus
  • Go viral
  • Keep calm and play the long game

It was a fabulous afternoon of product management goodness from all the speakers with much to learn and a fantastic view of the two great Sydney icons from the Museum of Contemporary Art.

Thank you Brainmates for organising a fantastic event!  If you want to check out more from the day, see the Storify.

Decisive book club – part 5 of 5

We have covered all the villains and their counter actions and all that is left to do, is to work on keeping these villains out of our decision making efforts.  To get more anecdotes and tips that will resonate for you pick up the book by Chip and Dan Heath yourself: Decisive: How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work.  They also have a great set of tools to support the reading at their website.

I needed one last post to pull all lessons of this great book together.  Each piece of advice will improve your decision making, but if you do not include people in what you are doing the tools will only help you with personal decision making.  As product managers, it is how we help others that will really make a difference at what we do each day.  So please resist the trap of thinking you don’t have time to add these steps into your product management process. Because there never is enough time in the day, a product should have shipped yesterday, the development team is screaming for more stories, and there is always someone calling for decisions to be made faster.  Resist the temptation to make a snap decision. Teresa Torres also draws attention to this area from her review of Decisive and argues it is an area product managers need to be mindful of.  Taking time to consult with people on the decision(s) to be made creates buy in.  Buy in helps with execution and will save you time in the long run.

We often find ourselves having to communicate decisions to those not necessarily involved directly in that moment.  Here the procedural justice approach can be really helpful in allowing people to understand the path that got you to that point.  They may not like the decision outcome itself, but if they understand what went into it, it will help with acceptance of the decision.  One tip that was called out here, was to not only highlight the good sides to the decision but also the downsides or weaknesses.  Again, this allows others not directly involved in the decision know what the triggers might be for changing the direction.  While we might fear this will lead to sabotage of the effort, it can lead to the opposite and helps with gaining support.  Because now, those impacted by the decision can help with preventing the negative outcomes.  And sharing the consideration that went into the thought process buy in is more likely. By having everyone on the team keeping an eye out for tripwires, you actually have empowered your entire team/organisation to ensure you keep doing the right things at the right time.

So the last pieces to remember to include people in the process are:

  • Bargaining yields buy-in (seems painful to the decision making timing, but helps with implementation/execution)
  • Procedural justice is another way to show that thought has been put into a decision (think of a judge system here, when the reasons are clear and considered, both sides of the case feel heard).
  • Highlighting some of the downsides of a decision can be another way to get buy-in by calling out areas that might be a trigger or tripwire for reconsidering in the future

“Decisive is a way of behaving.  Better to try and fail than to delay and regret.” 

In summary of the entire blog series we have covered the 4 villains and how we can counteract them:

Thanks for reading and please feel free to add comments on any of these areas below or let us know if there is anything else you would like to see us cover.

Decisive book club – part 4 of 5

So we have got to the last and final villain of decision making: Over confidence. This is the moment you need to prepare to be wrong!  But don’t worry – being wrong is not a bad thing – it is a time to learn and being prepared is part of your success strategy.  To review how we got this far check out the previous posts Part 1Part 2 and Part 3.

Preparing to keep your project or efforts on track are not signs of weakness but as I said ensure success.  The key insight from what the Heath brothers have researched is that if you follow some of these steps as a process you can really assist yourself in getting yourself out of some of the mind traps that we all fall into. For example one way to help get people thinking of things that could go wrong is to do a pre-mortem; i.e. do the post-implementation review or what could be done differently activity at the start of the project instead of at the end AFTER you have made the mistakes you are now discussing.

If you as a product manager guide this process by puling your team together who is executing on this decision and asking what could go wrong here, you can guide them into the mental shift to plan for the future.  Don’t forget to ask what could go wonderfully right.  A lot of projects I have worked on often worry about the worst case scenarios – I may have been surrounded by good decision makers already – but we often fail to plan for success and that can catch you out as well.  Using any tool to think ahead and prepare to be wrong does not mean you don’t go ahead with what you have decided, but it helps to know what you will do when those situations occur.

Some of these areas will make sense if you have followed a good project management approach, but you can kick off any of these techniques yourself.  My favourite out of all these tips was the tripwire.  The tripwire can be a great way to catch yourself at a certain point in the future and consider making a new decision, because you have new information at hand, or that flag that someone said “would never happen” has.  It can be a chance to go back to others who have made a decision and allow you to challenge it, because the factors that the original decision was based on have changed.

The great story that went with this tripwire in the book was about David Lee Roth and his bowl of M&M’s free of brown ones, which he insisted he have backstage at every performance.  The ultimate diva behaviour if this is the only part of the story you have heard.  The band’s production design was particularly complex, and while they had a road crew, much of the prep work had to be done in advance of the road crew arriving.  So they had a set-up contract that was pretty complex, and if any of it wasn’t followed correctly it could leave the band exposed to serious injury.  One of the clauses, deep into the contract and amongst all these technical specifications, was to have a bowl of M&M’s backstage that must be completely free of brown M&M’s.  If David Lee Roth walked back stage and saw even one brown M&M in the bowl, he would pull everyone up and insist on a check of the entire production set up.  His tripwire had gone off, and this was a great way to let him know the band was at risk because critical instructions had not been followed.

There are so many ways to help overcome over-confidence and prepare to be wrong, that I felt this was one of the easiest villains to defeat.  (Hah, a bit of over-confidence slipping in there!). Often one is following through on someone else’s decisions and these tools can be really useful for feeding back to the decision-maker flags or tripwires for when a decision needs reconsidering:

  • do a pre-mortem.  Think what could go wrong and then plan in preventing that
  • bookend things – worst to best scenario and have a plan for either outcome
  • FMEA = failure mode + effect analysis.  How likely is it, and how severe the consequence if it were to occur (and how likely will we be able to detect it, if it were to occur)
  • pre-parade: prepare for success as well as failure!
  • correct for over-confidence by multiplying by a certain factor (i.e. dev estimates, predictive models etc.)
  • treat the future as a spectrum not a point in time
  • add in a tripwire!!  (David Lee Roth story, brown M&Ms)
  • Triggers are another way to recognise when a (new) decision making moment has come up
  • Partitions also an option to create conscious thought on following through/or not on a decision

The book by Chip and Dan Heath can be purchased here: Decisive: How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work.

The last blog post will wrap up with a couple of key take-outs from the book overall and summarise what we have covered so far.

Decisive book club – part 3 of 5

We are middle of the way through reviewing Chip and Dan Heath’s excellent book Decisive. To review previous posts check out Part 1 and Part 2.  This section is about short-term emotions and how they can get very much in the way of making a good decision, which is especially perplexing when you have made significant effort to overcome self-confidence.

This next villain, short term emotion is an important one for product managers to think about as we are always introducing new things to an organisation. Short term emotion or loss aversion lead to strong bias against change. So even if you personally have managed to overcome your own bias against change, others are going to express their resistance strongly, and having some tips to work through it will help you be an effective leader of change.

One of the ideas the Heather brothers suggested here is to introduce familiarity, or as they more eloquently put it make use of the exposure principle. By introducing concepts gradually it can help overcome strong emotional responses. One of our group shared an experience, where they kept printed copies of all the pieces they were working on stuck up on their cubicle wall so that everyone could see what they were busy with at any time. This meant that by the time more formal presentations occurred, there were no surprises and thus less resistance to what was new.

The example in the book called out that the approach to breeding familiarity can take many different courses. In this case, new words were shared with students by chalking them up on the lecture board each day.  When the students were introduced to a new author to read, they felt they already knew who this person was, as the author’s name was one of the words that had been on the chalkboard each day (familiarisation done over a period of a few weeks). That might seem an odd approach but the key is that it doesn’t matter where the familiarity comes from, it helps with the acceptance of the book and author anyway. This particular tool resonated for many in the group, when we discussed it at our Product Anonymous session, and people could see some new possibilities for improving on their previous efforts at introducing the new.

So you have overcome confirmation bias thus far and those ugly Short-term emotions cloud your judgement, so some of the ways to help Attain distance before deciding (or as I like to call it “Phone-a-Friend”) are listed below:

  • sleep on it
  • what would you tell your best friend to do?
  • Exposure principle + loss aversion leads to a powerful bias against change
  • 10/10/10 rule: how would you feel about this decision in 10 minutes, 10 months or 10 years
  • short-term emotion may distract you from long term aspiration
  • core priorities (I hear vision in this tool, what is the product and its purpose)
  • the what will I stop doing in order to DO the things I said I will now do

Just in case you haven’t been convinced to own it for yourself because I cannot cover everything, the book can be purchased here: Decisive: How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work by the Heath brothers.

The next blog post will be about the last bias of them all Over confidence and how to Prepare to be Wrong.

Decisive book club – part 2 of 5

Welcome back, we are diving into the next bias in the decision making process that Chip and Dan Heath cover in their fabulous book Decisive.  We cover each of these areas as it helps us become better people, better product managers and better advisors to our peers.  To review the first post check out Part 1.

Confirmation bias is a terrible villain and one that is quite difficult to avoid. When listening to feedback in an user review session we are psychologically primed to only hear the positive comments rather than anything that does not affirm what we already believe to be true. This is why user testing and research studies suggest pairing when performing these activities. One of our attendees also made the suggestion to deliberately seek out a colleague to review what you are working on, to help you counter your own bias.

The idea of building prototypes, and smaller iterations in development (using Agile or other methods) to get the idea tested early is one that resonates well amongst a product management group. The word Ooch was the terminology the Heath brothers had picked up from an entrepreneur who had had success validating an idea before scaling up. I like the word myself and reading through some of the examples in the book it reminded me there are other ways to reality test your assumptions than only those I knew of from an agile approach. I think that is useful to remember because once you have gotten a development team up and running and your in motion it can be hard to change course if any new information comes up to suggest the project or product you are working on is not a good one to continue with. In some ways, it creates another form or confirmation bias where you continue the path you are on despite all other warnings to the contrary. Kodak would be a good example of this, where when they first reviewed the market, digital cameras were not taking off.  However, they needed to add a trigger or tripwire to let them know that it was time to review that point of view.  We will talk about triggers in a later post.

There were many great tools in this part of the book that are helpful not just for decision making, but also innovation and idea creation in your role as a product manager (or any other role where you build things).  Such tools include learning from experts (this was also covered in the IDEO HCD course as a key step), “ladder up” from the problem, see if you can find an analogous or totally other way to solve the problem in front of you (again an IDEO HCD step to reality test ideas), essentially see what others have done when solving the same problem and if the option they chose succeeded.  This will help you make a better decision, and if you still follow the same path, help plan for any of the obstacles you have now learnt about.

Other ideas or ways to Reality test your assumptions and help counteract your Confirmation bias are listed below:

  • actual attempt to make a mistake (a great way to challenge assumptions)
  • go for an outside or expert view but avoid prediction questions. have an expert remark on baselines, and talk about what they know. ALL people are terrible predictors of the future.
  • close ups are useful to colour the averages, the data and the overview
  • be a user yourself, to gain “expertise” and see it that close up (Bounty example, which is a paper towel product, where they used the competitor product in house, and removed confirmation bias of their own product. All scientific comparisons showed they were the better product but until they put competitor product in house, and had everyone from marketing to development using it for themselves)
  • Ooch! before leaping – test and learn

Don’t trust my posts on this book, get it yourself, there is so much valuable insight within: Decisive: How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work by the Heath brothers.

The next blog post will be about the villain Short term emotions and how to counteract them with Attain distance before deciding.

Decisive book club – part 1 of 5

We make decisions every day.  Not all them need to be done better but some of them, both personal and professional decisions could be improved upon.  Surely you have got caught in either making a decision that you later regretted or not sure the best decision was made by others.

Our last Product Anonymous catch up was a book club session on Dan and Chip Heath’s book Decisive, which helps guide you to better decision making by providing some tricks to avoid the key villains involved.  The great part about learning these tricks is that you will learn to make  better decisions as a product manager, which is a great feeling since you are making them everyday, and you will also become a better advisor to others.  We will cover each bias and counteract pair in a separate blog post.

So what are these wily villains that keep us from making kick ass decisions everyday:
  • narrow framing
  • confirmation bias
  • short term emotion
  • over confidence
Knowing the villains is not an instant fix for avoiding these common decision making traps but the counter points are easily remembered using the mnemonic WRAP:
  • W. Widen your options
  • R. Reality test your assumption
  • A. Attain distance before deciding 
  • P. Prepare to be wrong

None of the group on Thursday, apart from myself, had read the book, although Jen had skimmed it just before the session. As we went through the villains and the various ways you could counteract them, we nonetheless had a great discussion because as it turned out many at the gathering had used some of the tricks, without knowing that’s what they were called!  Since so many alternatives are offered in the book there was also some nice discovery of additional options to assist with future decision making process.

Stop asking “whether or not” questions was something that made so much sense to a group of product managers!  When so many people one encounters in your day to day work are often asking questions with this narrow framing bias, and we have to help them realise there are more options available and other choices to be made.  Having said that I think we all realised we sometimes shrink down our options too quickly for ourselves, due to the speed we are moving at.  That was a great call out the Heath brothers made in the book, that while it feels counter-productive and counter intuitive to to do this we limit ourselves when we reduce our options in order to expedite things.  Because putting more options on the table not only may allow you to find a a better alternative, the improved execution due to a much better considered option will speed things up at that later stage. Thus, (assumed) time lost at the beginning will be gained at that more complicated stage of delivery. There was also another great suggestion here to not frame your options to think only AND/OR but turn it around and have both, for once someone advising have your cake and eat it too.

To help others widen their view, a couple of good questions were suggested that can help this shift. Ask a group of people attempting to make a decision what evidence they would require to change their mind, or what would have to be true for them to come to an accord.  This can be a good way to co-ordinate a large group of people with different points of view and interests, to declare what they need to know to move forward.  Once you understand this, you can then collate that necessary information.  It is also a great suggestion for getting the group to work together to gather that data.  There is now more of a focus on the proof needed, than on ones agenda.  This tip I felt was useful from a product management perspective as we are often gathering many different stakeholders together to be on board for new initiatives.  Using this strategy can really help with buy-in, which is something we will talk more about in a future post.

So to sum up this villain of narrow framing and how list out some other ways to widen your options when faced with this villain, which we haven’t gone through here:

  • vanishing options test
  • opportunity cost (how many developers is that?)
  • simultaneous design or multi-tracking (but even by adding one thing you can you can widen your considerations and still avoid choice overload).  DON’T fake the options you add in.  They need to be real
  • balance a prevention mindset vs. promotion
  • find someone else who has solved your problem
  • a playlist of stimuli/questions to help widen the options as a regular approach
  • analogous (this came up in the IDEO stuff) – to get granular detail go local, to be conceptual go regional/national more broad
  • laddering up – these solutions require leaps of imagination, but you never know where inspiration/innovation will come from
  • STOP asking “whether or not” questions when framing the decision.  This will keep you in a narrow frame of mind thinking what about AND as well as the OR!!
  • consider the opposite option

Pick up a copy of the book here: Decisive: How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work by the Heath brothers.

The next blog post will cover the villain Confirmation bias and its counter move Reality test your assumptions.

January Coffee Catch up – next Thursday

Come out next Thursday Jan 30th at 1pm for a coffee or lunch.    We’ll be at Brunetti’s on Swanston & Flinders Lane from 1-2pm.

If it’s nice weather, we’ll sit outside and you can BYOB lunch or pick up something at Brunetti’s.

Look for Jen & Liz and/or the product anonymous logo.   We’ll tweet our exact location once we’ve arrived.

Eventbrite - Product Anonymous: coffee catch-up Jan 30 2014

What is Coffee Catch-up?

For those who can’t attend our evening sessions, or want more product management chat than just 1x a month, we have a casual catch up during the day.    There’s no speakers, no topics, the focus is on meeting new folks, catching up with people and having a chat.

RSVP at eventbrite is nice but not required.  It just gives us an idea of how much space we should attempt to reserve.

Note: our google calendar previously said 2pm but we have fixed it.  if you subscribe to the calendar, it should have changed.   to subscribe to the calendar, go to our events page.

Thoughts on Decision Making

Our 1st ever book club event is coming up this month & we’ve choosen Decisive: How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work by the Heath brothers.

This isn’t the first time we’ve covered decision making in our topics – last June, Steve Bauer did a prodanon session and then turned the session into a series of blog posts.  You can check them out here:

So come along, bring a friend and share a war story

January 23rd meet-up: Book club on Decisive by Chip and Dan Heath. Start time 6pm, for 6:30pm kick-off, at the Mail Exchange Hotel, back room behind the Restaurant area. Bourke and Spencer st.
RSVP below or click this button to go to Eventbrite for full details

Eventbrite - Product Anonymous - January 23 - Book club



The Art of Decision Making – Part 8: Learn and evaluate

This article continues the discussion from Product Anonymous back in June last year.  Full credit goes to the team and the attendees for providing key steps, insight and critical analysis.

In the last set of posts we defined the problem (topic and people), identified some alternatives, evaluated those alternatives, and even decided and implemented . The final step in the process is #6 – To learn and evaluate.

Now is the time to follow up on the decision; is the implementation going well, has the environment changed and what can you learn from it

Maintain your heading

Publicly stick with your decision.  If the team sees doubt then their commitment to the decision may drop, and it will be less effective.  Reiterating the decision outcome (or in PR terms being ‘on message’)  can seem like a waste of effort for you, but for everyone else who wasn’t part of the process it seems like new information.

Again, the plan is the plan until there is a new plan.

Monitor the outcomes

Follow up on how the decision is being implemented.  Are people working on it? Are the necessary steps being taken?  Are existing processes being modified?  If it is not being implemented then you have further influencing to do.

Follow up on the key metrics and points that were part of the decision analysis.  Are you getting the savings, revenue or traffic you predicted?  Are results shown in both quantitative and qualitative form?  Is everything else being held constant?

Adapt to changes by iterating

“Prediction is very difficult, especially if it’s about the future.”
Niels Bohr

It is a fact of life that every decision can have unintended consequences.  Or you may find that the decision-making assumptions were wrong.  Or you just aren’t getting the results you were expecting. Or you may just be plain wrong.

The important thing is that you stay on top of the outcomes of the decision, and get involved before they escalate out of hand.  The interesting project work always involves unknowns, and mistakes will be made.


The whole decision making cycle is a perfect opportunity to learn about the business, the process, and the people involved.

Step back and think about the bigger picture.  For example: What would you do differently next time?  How would you have achieved the same result in only 10% of the time?  How could you achieved the same outputs with only 10% of the budget?

Always ask yourself: What will you do better next time?


We are now done.  We have taken the full 6 part process and looked at some of the stickier issues within corporate decision making.

Have you got any other tools to help you make decisions? Please feel free to comment below to add to the discussion.

Go back & read part 7 on Implementation.

Steve is a Product Development Manager at Telstra Wholesale.  The views expressed in this post are his only and do not necessarily reflect the views of Telstra.

The Art of Decision Making – Part 7: Implement

This article continues the discussion from Product Anonymous back in June last year.  Full credit goes to the team and the attendees for providing key steps, insight and critical analysis.

In the last set of posts we defined the problem (topic and people), identified some alternatives, evaluated those alternatives, and then deciding.  Step #5 in the process is to implement that decision.

Ok.  We have made our decision.  Woohoo!

Now what?

Surely everyone will just crack on with it?

Communicate the decision so that it can be implemented.

And this might mean communicating well beyond the immediate team tasked with the implementation.  There are usually some impacted teams that you haven’t considered out there that need to be informed.  So back to the RACI model and consider the ‘Informed’ folk.

You may need to use your influence to get help from other people to implement it. There may be some resistance, but with a well reasoned decision process then you should have no trouble getting commitment and support from everyone.  You are going to need them to be ‘all in’ so they can run with the new decision.

Use the momentum

There will now be some momentum behind the decision as you have already involved a bunch of stakeholders.  Get the stakeholders to help implement and promote the decision.  Get them involved in the next decision that is the natural progression of the current.  Keep that momentum going.

Kill the alternatives

Depending on your culture, it may be necessary to kill the other alternatives. Because of the decision making process there may be doubt about whether the final solution is the best solution.

It is possible for a company to continue using resources on the unchosen option in the name of ‘risk mitigation’, ‘creating a plan B’, or ‘I disagree so I’ll do it my way’. It may be necessary to prevent each of the alternatives from being implemented just to prevent the waste of resources.

Alexander the Great may have burned his boats upon arrival on the shores of Persia as a sign of commitment.  While you may not have to be as extreme, you don’t want to waste resources on options that may never bear fruit.

The plan is the plan until there is a new plan.

We have now implemented our decision, but it is still not over.  Perhaps there is some iteration or learning ahead.  Next we’ll look at what we can learn.

Have you got any other tools to help you make decisions? Please feel free to comment below to add to the discussion.

Go back to Part 6: Decision time.

Steve is a Product Development Manager at Telstra Wholesale.  The views expressed in this post are his only and do not necessarily reflect the views of Telstra.