7 sins inviting bad features to sneak into your product

7 deadly sins that invite bad features to sneak into your product - the mobile spoon

Entrepreneurs and product leaders are well-trained to relentlessly prioritize the important stuff, and say no to everything else.

And yet, despite using countless prioritization tools and decision-making frameworks, we are often caught off-guard, allowing our human weaknesses and cognitive biases to get in our way and make bad product decisions.

Often enough, those bad decisions mean bad features sneaking into the product making it cluttered, lacking a coherent experience, and practically making it worse.

Here are 7 deadly sins that invite bad features to sneak into your product:

1. Ego 

There’s nothing like inflated ego to make good entrepreneurs behave like rock stars seeking personal glory.

Ego: 7 deadly sins that invite bad features to sneak into your product - the mobile spoon

When the “me” part comes before everything else (company, users, employees), bad features are invited into the product for the sake of creating a buzz, being trendy, trying to get noticed and becoming famous.

The thing about ego is that it usually comes with other destructive characteristics such as refusing to consult or listen to others, unwillingness to admit mistakes and taking all the credit, but the biggest problem, in the context of product decisions, is shifting the focus away from delivering value to delivering short term wins, fake growth or personal glory.

Or as John Rampton says in his article 8 ways ego killed by business: “Just because your favorite color is red does not mean red is the best possible color for your logo”.

2. Hubris

Overconfidence leads to arrogance and hasty decisions.
At a certain point, usually after a few successful decisions, the product leader starts to overestimate his competence and accomplishments, and underestimates everything else: the business challenges, the competitors, bad market signals, and other threats.

Hubris: 7 deadly sins that invite bad features to sneak into your product - the mobile spoon

When product leaders feel invincible, they forget the basics of this profession: modesty, empathy, caution, proper research, data-driven decisions, trial and error…

“I know what’s best for my product”, they say, and after all, it worked well so far, right?

But at a certain point they run out of luck; they misinterpret (or disregard) the feedback, they improvise too much, they make false assumptions and forget to challenges themselves. That’s when wrong features sneak into the product.

3. Laziness

In a world of agile development and frequent shipping, it’s popular to move fast and break things.
But there’s a fine line between acting fast and becoming superficial.

Laziness: 7 deadly sins that invite bad features to sneak into your product - the mobile spoon

Once the culture of acting fast is taking over - managers don’t spend enough time thinking things through or performing proper research. Alternatively, they might understand the problem well enough, but then they get shallow on the solution side.

I’ve seen people say: “let’s do something quick and dirty” or “let’s just iterate until it works”, but that’s just being lazy because product experiments, MVPs, and A/B tests were not invented to replace creativity or hard work, they are tools to help product managers make data-driven decisions and optimize their work.

As I wrote in my post: 5 basic mistakes product managers still make - when it comes to product decisions: measure twice, cut once. Some tasks require extra effort.

4. Biases blind spot

Falling in love with a feature is a common mistake many young entrepreneurs and product people make. Once your heart is locked on a solution - that’s when all product management practices collapse and emotional (sometimes irrational) decisions are made.

There are many cognitive biases that support this phenomenon and once they take over, it’s a done deal.

Sure, you will talk to customers, but they’ll just tell you exactly what you wanted to hear.
You will search and find quantitive data that will help you shape up your assumptions but once you’re locked on a solution, you’ll find ways to highlight the numbers that confirm it (confirmation bias, choice supportive bias) and disregard any piece of evidence that refutes it (disconfirmation bias, the ostrich effect).

Another bias that might make you make instinctive "me too" decisions is FOMO (the fear of missing out) - if one of your competitors is doing something, FOMO makes it seem successful and more attractive than what it really is.

Lacking a clear vision:

The following 3 sins can cause good product managers to totally lose their path and forget their product vision.

5. Credulity

Even the smartest people can be led to believe in something when it comes from people they admire and look up to.

Credulity: 7 deadly sins that invite bad features to sneak into your product - the mobile spoon

When we just started Missbeez, we were eager to get good advice from successful entrepreneurs and investors. At first, we didn’t question them and rushed to implement the things they recommended, assuming they were just “right”.

Over time, we’ve learned that there are no secret “success formulas” and what worked well for one product, may not work well for others. We started challenging our advisors and took their recommendations with a grain of salt.

Product leaders and entrepreneurs get feature ideas from smart and influential people all the time - and it feels pretty safe to blindly accept them. After all: “they know what they’re talking about”.
But there’s a big difference between learning from others and being credulous;
A product manager who’s easily persuaded is likely to be drifted off track and promote features that are not aligned with the product vision. 
Sometimes it might actually work, but in many cases, the lack of clear vision will be noticeable and will weaken the product.

6. Being spineless 

A product is a dynamic business, especially for startups: it changes, it evolves, and roadmaps change too. To be a great product leader you must be flexible and pragmatic, but being flexible doesn’t mean you can be spineless.
I’ve seen product leaders jumping from one idea to another, changing their minds too easily and too frequently, being led by their stakeholders and peers instead of leading.

Here’s how it goes: 
Imagine yourself speaking with one of your vocal customers or an early adopter; she knows the product, she uses it all the time, she knows her own problems well, and she’s very opinionated.

Oh, and she just caught you off-guard at the kindergarten to explain why your last product enhancement was a mistake, while she, as a known expert in this field has a proven solution: feature X.

This is amazing! Let’s just do what she asked for!” you tell your development team, only to realize they are not excited about it as you are. They think feature X will never work, but hey, how about feature Y? Almost like feature X (only it's not), but much more efficient and will support high scales.

Fine!”, you say. “Let’s do it your way 😬!”, and you head over to your QA team to keep them in the loop.

Not a bad thing to do, right?

Almost, because the QA team raises some valid concerns about the usability of feature Y and as a compromise, they come up with feature Z.

Now add sales and marketing representatives to the loop and pretty soon you end up promoting feature Q, which is nothing similar to the original feature X, and feels like a weird hybrid, the result of making too many compromises and lacking a clear vision. 

7. Avoiding a conflict 

We all know the importance of saying “no” to features (and please don’t give me the Steve Jobs ice cream quote again), and yet, many of us fail to do so, especially when we feel that saying “no” might lead to an unpleasant conflict.

Avoiding conflicts: 7 deadly sins that invite bad features to sneak into your product - the mobile spoon

  • Think about your biggest customer or even worse: your first customer - how easy will it be to say “no” to them? 
  • Think about your best developer who just spent the entire weekend inventing something no one needs and now the whole team is pressuring you to add it to the product - how do you say no to that? 
  • Think about that influencer who’s frequently phrasing your mobile app on social media and publicly asks for a feature that only a few will ever use - how can you ignore that? 
  • And that’s before counting sales, the CEO, investors, and other powerful people you just can’t say “no” to. 
When the need to please someone, or avoid a conflict grows - your ability to say “no” weakens and suddenly those features “they asked for” sneak into the product bypassing the prioritization process and delaying more important tasks.

That's also when feature creeps appear: everyone wants something to be added somewhere.
"It's small!" they say, "it will take an hour to develop it"... hmmm... sure... but even the smallest feature can cause overhead when it needs to be tested, maintained over time, evolve with the rest of the product, be localized, be documented, be integrated with the rest of the world, be supported, etc.
The above examples are usually a sign for a lack of leadership, but at certain points, it can happen to everyone, young and experienced product people. Products are a complicated business and even the strongest leaders know it's not always possible to say "no".

So there you have it: 7 Sins that will make you take the wrong turn and make some unthoughtful product decisions.

Still here? That means you probably identified with some of these sins.

Don’t sweat it, you are definitely not alone.
Try to find the root cause; what’s causing those things to happen?
Whether it’s an ego thing or trying to avoid conflicts - understand what’s stopping you from making clean decisions and think of ways to remove those impediments from your workplace.

It’s doable.

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Gil Bouhnick The Mobile Spoon
Maviour said…
So true...
Gil Bouhnick The Mobile Spoon
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