Breaking Free from the Delivery Drain: Emphasizing Product Discovery

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About the author Stephan van Rooden
Stephan is highly skilled Product Management consultant, Professional Scrum Trainer and Entrepreneur. An experienced and energetic management- and teamtrainer. Storyteller and insight-bringer with an addition of way beyond a hundred practical examples.

Product Managers and Product Owners often find themselves caught in the delivery drain, where their time and energy are consumed by the operational aspects of getting a product out the door. This focus on delivery not only drains their resources. But also forces them to operate on an operational level, leaving little room for the strategic and tactical thinking that drives real product innovation. To truly excel, product teams must shift their attention to product discovery. A critical yet frequently overlooked aspect of product management.

The Delivery Drain

Too many Product Managers (PMs) and Product Owners (POs) are stuck in the delivery cycle, managing tasks, deadlines, and ensuring that features are released on time. While delivery is essential, it is merely the final step in a much larger process. Mostly the unpredictability of delivery often stems from a lack of proper discovery. Without understanding what the market truly needs, delivery becomes a shot in the dark, draining valuable time and energy from POs and PMs.

Making Smart Decisions with Limited Resources

Many product teams face constraints  in terms of budget and capacity. It becomes increasingly important to make the right decisions. Effective product discovery involves validating ideas early and often. Ensure that the team is working on features that will deliver real value. This approach not only maximizes the use of limited resources but also minimizes the risk of costly reworks, allowing PMs and POs to focus on strategic decision-making.

The Customization Conundrum

Many product teams are driven by customer demands. Leading to excessive customization of the product. This reactive approach can dilute the product’s core value proposition and create a fragmented user experience. Instead of bending over backward to meet every specific request, PMs and POs should focus on identifying and solving the real problems that affect the majority of users. This strategic focus will lead to a more coherent product that serves its purpose more effectively.

Real-World Example: Shifting Focus from the unsolvable Problem to the actual problem

A couple of weeks ago, I attended a conversation about an unsolvable problem in the product. The nature of the problem was that there wasn’t a single best solution; multiple solutions worked, and it was a matter of individual user preference during onboarding. The product team spent the majority of the conversation trying to solve this problem. However, the actual issue they needed to address was not solving the problem itself but preventing people from calling the support team.

This example highlights the importance of product discovery. Instead of getting bogged down in finding the perfect solution, the team needed to step back and understand the underlying issue. Reducing support calls. By focusing on this goal, they could create a more streamlined onboarding process. This will empower users to make decisions independently, ultimately enhancing the user experience and reducing the support burden.

What is needed for Product Professionals?

For PMs and POs in digital product development, escaping the delivery drain and emphasizing product discovery is crucial. By better understanding the market, making informed decisions with constrained resources, and focusing on solving real problems. Product teams can deliver products that not only meet but exceed user expectations. Let’s break free from the delivery drain and elevate our roles to leverage product discovery.

Feel free to share your thoughts and experiences. How do you balance discovery and delivery in your product management process?

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