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Continuous Innovation is Product Management

Defining success in a culture of continuous innovation means that the definition of ‘done’ changes from ‘works as designed and shipped on time in a bug free way’ to ‘works as designed, shipped in a bug free way and actually delivered a meaningful change in customer behavior.’

Jeff Gothelf, Author of Lean UX and Sense and Respond, discusses why product teams need to manage for outcomes instead of outputs, and what leaders need do to empower their teams to achieve continuous innovation.

After publishing one of the most influential books in product management, “Lean UX,” Jeff did exactly what he espouses in the book: he got feedback. The insights he gained from readers lead him to the realization that while many product teams now understand the value of customer-centric product management, often times, the Senior Executives who need to enable their teams to practice it do not understand it. It’s critical that Senior Executives do understand it because of the two trends Jeff lays out at the beginning of this episode:

  1. Every business is a software business
  2. Managing a software business is fundamentally different than managing a hardware or services business

Managing software products has enabled companies to shift towards continuous deployment. Continuous deployment gives product managers the opportunity to get continuous feedback from customers and improve the impact of the product they’re building. “The faster that you can learn, the faster you can improve the user experience and the net result of the product you’re deploying,” Jeff says.

Jeff mentions Amazon as one of the most effective practitioners of continuous deployment. Amazon pushes code to production every 11.6 seconds, and they learn something every time they do.

I spent the remainder of the interview asking Jeff about how companies can successfully make the shift to continuous innovation. Jeff starts by making a distinction between managing for outputs and managing for outcomes. A new feature release is an output. The value you provide to customers is an outcome. Outputs are easier to measure, and therefore easier to manage, however, delivering value to customers is what makes a product and business successful.

To make this shift, Jeff says companies need to adjust how they measure success:

“Defining success in a culture of continuous improvement means that the definition of ‘done’ changes from ‘works as designed and shipped on time in a bug free way’ to ‘works as designed, shipped on time in a bug free way and actually delivered a meaningful change in customer behavior.’”

Jeff advises leaders to empower their teams to achieve more meaningful outcomes by framing objectives as a business problem to solve. “Instead of framing work as a set of features to build and deploy, it frames the work as a business problem to solve,” he says. Jeff then discusses the two traits leaders need to be successful in this new approach: curiosity and humility.

You’ll learn a number of actionable strategies for innovating and making organizational change from this episode. Here are the highlights:

  • Jeff describes what motivates organizations to change their approach to product development (5:45)
  • Jeff’s suggestions for managing products in continuous deployment (10:00)
  • How Jeff’s philosophy helps teams manage outcomes as opposed to outputs (12:15)
  • The skills and mindsets executives need to drive continuous innovation (16:55)
  • Jeff describes his best practices for influencing stakeholders (22:30)
  • Jeff shares how consultants can influence organizational change (25:40)

Jeff Gothelf

Author of Lean UX and Sense and Respond

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