Product Velocity: Alignment Avalanche!
Change.org Product VP on Driving Product Velocity (Part 2)
Once you have mediocrity and clutter cleared away, alignment is the next factor to drive product velocity. If anything, I believe the lack of alignment is the top reason for failure.
How many times have you heard these dueling arguments?
“I wish we would move forward faster” versus “Yeah, but we need to maintain quality.”
This represents a lack of alignment. These conflicts appear in a variety of forms, such as quality vs. speed, incremental change vs. big swings, and so on. We get entrenched in positions that tend to slow things down.
Now, there’s a spectacular way to break down misalignment. But first, we need to grasp some team basics.
Game Plan Clarity
At change.org, I use sports team analogies. We may have different tasks, but our objective is the same, that is, to score more goals than the other team. So we want to:
- Win – Top Line Metrics (e.g., revenue goals, user growth, account activation).
- Score a goal – Meaningful increment towards winning. (e.g., a new feature that delivers a 20 percent core metric pop).
- Shot on goal – The smallest amount of work possible to determine if something (e.g., feature, MVP, prototype) will score a goal.
The next step is to quantify the effort. For instance:
- We need ten goals to win
- Estimated % of shots that will be a goal = 10
- Shots on goal required to win = 100
These objectives help align your team. Your numbers will vary, but it helps to quantify things.
This process creates a shared language to unify players. It also provides a way to measure efforts. I ask each team: what’s winning look like at the end of the quarter for you? How many shots do you need to take? How do you justify your shot to goal ratio?
The result is a roadmap for success, and we all pull in the same direction. There are no more arguments about speed vs. quality. Instead, we’re all working to take shots on goal to win.
Offense Vs. Defense
Teamwork can be further defined by offensive, defensive and other types of work. Here how we identified these at change.org:
- Offensive – Creating value for the user, business or product. Short term shots, mid-term strategic investments, long term architecture evolutions.
- Defensive – Preemptive actions (spam management, fake news, etc.) and external factor reactions (FB algorithm change).
- Any work not towards delivering direct value to users or business (interviews, onboarding, reviews, program, etc.).
Now comes the good part.
Inevitably, as you develop a bunch of ideas, product development and the ability to deliver grind down over time. Why? Even though everyone is aligned, they’re still not completely unified.
When each team focuses on its task too intensely for too long, the organization gets stagnant and silos start to take shape. What you need is an avalanche to shake things up. This means dedicating the entire organization to a single objective.
This focused effort leads to better collaboration and speed which lasts over time. We all work on getting specific ideas shipped. It’s an excellent motivator for alignment.
Avalanches work when:
- Everybody’s all in 100%. Really.
- Set high stakes, clear goals.
- Fixed period, set end date.
- Scheduled clean-up & learning afterward.
- Make it fun.
Bang a Gong
During our avalanche – we called it Oktoberfest – I showed up to the office in lederhosen. Junior engineers swapped ideas with the CTO. It was not a threatening environment, but rather a reason to bind together and celebrate. With every shipment, we rang a victory gong. We moved forward in critical areas at incredible speed.
The process lasted six weeks, and it built interconnected muscles that continue to work to this day. I can’t wait for the next avalanche.