Tell-Tales is the 5th T of the 7Ts of Product-Led Transformation. It’s fair to say that we don’t have perfect information during the Transformation planning process and we’ll need to course-correct during the Program.
The question is how do we know when to course correct. What are the tell-tales to recognise if we’re making progress or not?
There are 2 key ways to determine if or when the Program is off track.
Keep a look out for daily indicators that alert you to problems that may occur.
The language used by the people in the organisation on a day-to-day basis is a key determinant of the progress the Program is making. If people across the organisation speak in disparaging terms about the Program using words such as “it won’t work”, “why is product taking over” or, “why are we doing it this way”, then you have a problem that needs to be resolved immediately. The Program optics and Communication Plan needs evaluating to ensure that every team feels included and has a place to operate during the transformation. Remember, being Product-Led is an inclusive process not an exclusive process for Product folks only.
On a positive note, if you hear teams across the organisation being interested and probing about the customer and the customer problems, you know you’re making headway.
Early behaviours exhibited by the people in the organisation also help identify if there are issues that need to be resolved immediately. People may resist using new processes, tools or systems and you’ll have to uncover the core reasons why this may be the case. People may not have the know-how or the skills to apply the new tooling and require more instruction and support. A once-off training session cannot change behaviour or impart new skills immediately.
According to Heidi Grant Halvorson, a motivational psychologist ““Too often, we approach a new skill with the attitude that we should nail it right out of the gate. The reality is that it takes much longer.” https://hbr.org/2012/11/how-to-master-a-new-skill
While we have to be patient to see a noticeable change in behaviour, it’s nevertheless important to review the Transformation’s Learning Program to ensure that it is supporting the workforce and bridging the learning gaps. Too often, Learning Programs are treated as an ‘after thought’. But, in order for the Transformation to take effect, you have to ready your people to learn fast.
“In a fast-moving, competitive world, being able to learn new skills is one of the keys to success. It’s not enough to be smart — you need to always be getting smarter,” says Heidi Grant Halvorson
The Transformation Plan must include a series of milestones to ensure that the Program and the expected outcomes are delivered.
Milestones mark the path towards the Transformation vision and is a critical indicator of the Program’s success. While milestones are as old the Roman Empire, they are still necessary to track progress. If milestones are missed or worse, ignored, this is a strong indicator that the Program needs to be re-evaluated.
A missed milestone is not detrimental. It may signal that you’re off track because the team has discovered or learnt something unexpected. The more important aspect is that you’ve embedded the learning into the Plan and modified the milestones to reflect the change. A missed milestone may also indicate that you’ve changed the path. It is an opportunity to question whether you’re on the right path towards achieving the Transformation vision. The important lesson is that the Program is flexible in its approach towards its vision.
A milestone ignored means that the Program hasn’t made progress or that it is simply going in circles. The company is merely playing ‘Transformation Theatre’.
Ignoring a milestone is a critical tell-tale that the Program is heading towards failure. At this juncture, you’ll need to reconvene your key stakeholders to diagnose the root of the problem. You’ll have to review and align on the vision. This isn’t an effortless task. In fact, it’s the reason why Transformation Programs fail. People forget, dismiss, find another shiny new object or simply forge their own path. At this point, if Transformation is a priority, the CEO has to take centre stage to publicise the importance of change and being Product-Led.