Perfection paralysis and the death of product

How many times have you heard ‘when its ready i’ll launch’?

It’s one of the most painful phrases for me to hear, I tend to be more of a project manager kind of personality, so my focus is always on shipping the product, get it out, test it, get feedback and optimise, typical lean startup, agile kind of thinking. But it seems this kind of approach is easier said than done. More often than not, my experience has been that product-founders tend to also be perfection obsessed.

They tend to obsess over the features and functions, the nuances of the product and how it works, at the expense of deadlines and even sales. I get it, they don’t want to launch something buggy, they don’t want to launch something their not proud of, or something incomplete compared to competitors. But the trade off is, at times, they don’t launch anything at all.

Product-founders need to learn not to let perfect be the enemy of good. But, thats also easier said than done.

Ray Dalio has a saying ‘you can have anything you want but not everything you want’ – the fact that every choice and desire has a cost is implicit. And this is something product-founder need to consider when developing their product.

For every new feature or change, there is a cost, in time, in effort, in lost opportunities. Therefore, we can also consider that every feature or change should have a revenue goal associated with it, or at least we should consider the magnitude impact on revenue that new feature my deliver.

Being an Entrepreneur is about managing risks, not just that, but its also about maximising opportunity. Developing a feature is a risk, so we want the returns to be a multiple on that risk to justify our efforts

the product management feature assessment tool I(mpact), C(onfidence),E(ase) goes some way to helping to breakout this kind of thinking, and any product-founder will benefit for adding this to their evaluation for any new feature request, regardless where it comes from.

Notably, Impact is the one i think adds the most value – this is the evaluation of the revenue driving potential of a feature, it could include other ways that a feature could add impact, but for now, impact can be how much potential revenue a feature can bring.

So an example – if a sales guy comes to me asking for a feature, my questions to assess impact would include – how much revenue will this client generate for the business? how many other clients have asked for this and whats their revenue? how much of a deal breaker is this feature for this cohort of clients? are there any clients who will give us assurance they will sign a contract on condition of us release this feature? – in this way, i can both assess the value (impact) of the feature, as well as condition my sales guy to really assess how valuable such a request is.

On the other side, Confidence and Ease are more directed at my development team – i want to ensure that they are working on features that can give the biggest impact, quickly and reliably, so the higher the confidence and ease, even if the impact isn’t as great, the more i’m likely to focus on those features.

so using the ICE framework, we would find evidence to support any of the scores given for each of the factors, then we would have a combined score from adding the score for each of these factors.

In this way, we can help to prevent the perfectionist urges of our product-founders (and sales guys) by forcing them to use an ICE assessment to really evaluate if what they want to do or change will really give the returns to afford the time committed.

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