Once the pilot was launched, the spirit changed. The PO lacked vision for next few releases which caused churn in the team and hence delayed commercialization. During the few weeks following the pilot launch the team got caught up in inertia of not delivering any new features to the product. There were constant discussions/arguments about technology choices, processes and methodologies without focus on building the product. This eventually delayed the productrsquo;s commercial launch. ÿRyan failed to realize that a Role based culture, dependant on a central committee to determine the course of a start-up product (processes, technology etc) is not the best way to develop a new product. Role based cultures are always marred by procedures, descriptions and authority. Ryan ended up championing a product management style which was discouraging, disengaging and tarnished with mediocre choices of practices and technology leading to low team morale. His style of management was antithesis to agile principles.
Few of the common mistakes that Ryan committed during this phase are
- Inability to surface business and product scope risks early and often.
- Unable to support the partnering technical team in their choice of practices and technology best suited to solve the technological challenges (this is the very factor that gave him success during the pilot phase).
- Not being able to define a draft release map (post the pilot) and get buy in to the roadmap from internal stakeholders and external partners.
- Inability to clear the distrust between the internal technology team and external technology integrators about the measure of the productrsquo;s success
- Unable to lead and protect the team from distractions and inordinate delays ndash; no facilitation of negotiations with partners etc
The Culture Connection!
ldquo;If you do not change direction, you may end up where you are headingrdquo;, Lao Tzu
In both the cases mentioned above, the relatively less prominent common pattern is this: larger corporations are forming or funding start-ups in financially trying times to build and launch new innovative product ideas.
Top management of large corporations is well aware of the cultural inertia that organizational growth (size) has brought in. Small but heavily financed incubators are their only alternatives to conceive, build and release new products. They staff these ventures with charismatic in-house leaders, new hires, and progressive-minded technology integrators, providing them with sufficient bandwidth to make the product a success. However, as narrated above, the results can be quite different. More often than not, the results are directly influenced by the organizational culture. Company culture is one of the most important things (other than the product and the market) that determine whether a startup succeeds or fails.
Contrasting Models and Product Ownership
Culture is about how an organization arranges itself (people, processes and values): the rules, procedures, beliefs and values make up the culture of the company. However culture is not something that is created artificially from outside but it happens from within[iii]. New companies usually do not have a set culture and it is determined by the consistent behavior of the people involved in the business. For new companies itrsquo;s not ideal to borrow culture from outside ndash; borrowed culture ends up getting warped to fit the new principles and practices followed within the new business.
Agile Principles of trust, simplicity, respect, self organization, close collaboration (amongst others) are conducive to establishing a start-up business. With adoption of Agile, the POs and team should have leverage to build a cohesive, engaged, collaborative team dedicated to sustainable development of high business value software. The leadership (product managers) in new businesses has great opportunity to drive and shape the cultural innovation