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Stop celebrating releases, you are missing the real value

Again and again, I witness product teams rejoicing about the fact they have managed to release new product features. I hate to be the party pooper, but this behaviour is a key indicator that the team will fuel Gartner’s* findings that only 11% of products achieve their targets. Put simply, they are doing it wrong.

I can hear the outcry now, “but we shipped working software”, which is important but it is not the focus of product teams. The team did release working software, which is of course critical, but have they created value? Probably not. 

Teams who focus on the release typically view shipping as the end of their journey, their job is done and they can now move on to the next task. I call these teams “project delivery teams”, their products are unlikely to be successful and doubtfully will not achieve growth targets. 

Here is the crux of the matter, value creation doesn’t happen when code hits production servers. Value creation happens when customers derive value from using the features and typically are willing to pay or continue paying for the pleasure. Project delivery teams are not focused on the value, they often do not know if any value was created. Unfortunately, it gets worse, it is very unlikely to create valuable features with the first version, it needs to evolve through iteration. The idea will typically need improving and optimising before any value is realised by the customer. I know it sounds blunt, but this means project delivery teams could likely stay at home doing nothing and create the same value. 

You can change your project delivery teams into valuable product teams. One key difference is your product teams must focus on the outcome. This means they will release to measure and learn what further development is needed. They finish iterating when the desired outcome of value is achieved. A product team releases lots of time, they celebrate big when the desired outcome is reached. 

Transforming project delivery teams into product teams needs the right product mindset, outcome-based objectives, ability to experiment and empowerment to find the best solution the chosen technology is capable of supporting. 

*Gartner Product Score for Product Management