Earlier this year we asked 1150 survey participants the following open-ended question “What is the single greatest challenge your product team faces in meeting organizational expectations?”
We received plenty of responses. In fact, because the survey was anonymous, some of the responses were painfully honest. Participants did not pull their punches.
I have listed the top three responses below in reverse order. Here’s what we found out.
#3. Continuously Changing Priorities – Product team members indicate that executive teams are continuously changing the product teams priorities. This constant change is inhibiting the ability of the team to establish or maintain momentum.
In fact, several of our respondents described the problem in their own words “The project of the day becomes the focus of the team to the detriment of other projects.” Another went on to say that we need to “Focus on anything long enough to get something done!”
#2. Lack of Alignment – Respondents lament the “Lack of effective alignment across the enterprise.” In fact, survey respondents point to functional silos, conflicting priorities, and redundant work efforts as major factors inhibiting the product teams success.
Survey respondents indicate that there is “No high level strategy to shape the products around” and that a “Clear company vision and detailed operational strategies simply don’t exist.”
Finally, the number one factor, which was not unexpected, was resource constraints and allocations on the product team. I say this was not an unexpected finding because in a recessionary environment this finding is not all together shocking. However, the number of organizations indicating this was an issue was very high.
Respondents stated that this is a time of “lean resources and great ambitions.” What they mean is that senior executives are asking product team members to achieve the same objectives that existed before resource reductions were in place with increasingly lower levels of resources. In other words, achieve objectives set in place during a time of less constraints with significantly reduced resources. It’s clear from the density of responses and the great levels of frustration in the verbatims that there is a very high level of frustration at the lack of awareness of how stretched the product teams really are.
Respondents summed it by saying that they’re facing “Unreasonable, and I mean insanely unreasonable timelines” and expectations given the resource constraints.
Reading between the lines it’s pretty apparent that executive teams face significant challenges. The majority of these challenges center on the senior leaderships ability to improve strategic planning and communication while setting realistic goals given the resource constraints brought on by the recession. Certainly no easy task, but the alternative is that company’s continue to ineffectively utilize expensive resources and pay a longer term cost for stretching their most valued product team members too thin and risking losing them down the road.
That would be a shame as these resources are too few to begin with and typically have invaluable institutional knowledge that often goes under-appreciated – until it’s lost.
Greg Geracie is a recognized thought leader in the field of product management and the President of Actuation Consulting, a global provider of product management consulting, training, and advisory services to some of the world’s most well-known organizations. Greg is also the author of the global best seller Take Charge Product Management. He is also an adjunct professor at DePaul University’s College of Computing and Digital Media where he teaches graduate and undergraduate courses on high-tech and digital product management.