I take the opportunity of a really good article shared recently by my network.
It’s been a while since I wanted to share some thoughts about product definition and about organizational consultants advices. My humbleness and shyness prevented me to write anything about it but today I decided to give it a try hoping that someone finds it useful.
Here I share an interesting article about cross-functional dedicated teams for new product development:
Though I see some value in these kind of articles, I am not sure the value still exceeds the disadvantages of the confusion they inadvertently create.
My feeling is that those articles tend to create more polarization than clarity, due to the plenty of holes naturally left behind when someone tries to concentrate a good amount of experience and reasoning in few sentences.
That said, I would like to direct the attention to the paragraph related to “dedicated teams”.
The whole paragraph seems centered around the concept of “multitasking”.
We are presented with 3 examples of being fully dedicated:
– working only with 1 team at a time,
– working only on 1 product at a time,
– working only on a daily activity at a time (dealing with bugs leads naturally to the opposite situation).
My understanding is that we are trying to avoid the disruption caused by multitasking. Aren’t we?
I completely agree for what is worth.
Yet I think that in order to better clarify what we are talking about, we would need to better define the word ‘multitasking’ in the context of time and we would need to better define the concept of ‘product’ or ‘initiative’.
From the examples provided I extrapolate the following excerpt of what is described as not being focused on 1 product:
When you start the usual conversation about splitting your product with dedicated teams in order to reduce cognitive load and multitasking, if you refer to this article, remember those 3 words:
The issue we are referring to here is about working on “entirely unrelated products”. As simple as that.
I hear often the word ‘Product’ stretched to accomodate whatever initiative we refuse to prioritize compared to other similar inititiatives.
Usually those initiatives are all “priority 1” and the company seems lacking the capabilities or willingness to put them in order. We should ask ourselves what is the real reason behind it.
First of all I want to clarify that I am a fanatic of doing: “one thing at a time”.
That said still we need some more insight about the concept of multitasking.
Does it make sense at all mentioning that word with no time reference?
About the word multitasking: for sure switching topic every 5 minutes is multitasking in most situations. Also switching over the day can be considered multitasking in many cases. Do you relate with this assumption?
Is it multitasking when we switch every couple of days or weeks? Is it multitasking if we completely change topic after 1 week but the previous one is “DONE” and can be forgot for a while?
How long should we stick to a specific activity, initiative, team or whatever else in order to avoid the cost of ‘multitasking’ to be bigger than the advantages that we have in terms of adaptability at the team level?
If we fail to define those two variables (product and multitasking) we can easily over-focus our attention only on the “not clearly defined” multitasking topic and end up wanting to define smaller and smaller products, thus having teams dedicated to smaller and smaller portions of our system in order to reduce the need to switch too often over weeks or months.
Are we able to measure what we loose and what we gain? I think it is not so easy, especially if we measure only on the short term.
Call them Areas, features, products, initiatives or whatever else, the questions you need to answer are:
“How long a specific team in your company needs to focus on a part of your system in order to be able to provide value effectively and in a healthy way?”
“What is the impact, on our adaptability to the market, of having our teams dedicated to smaller portions of our product?”
“Are we able to measure the costs in creating silos of domain knowledge in our organization? (in terms of opportunity loss, need of coordination roles, time needed to change direction)”
As a final note…”I advise teams from software to hardware, and they now often include additional roles such as Marketing, Finance and Data Scientists.”
I personally miss how Finance as a role can be 100% dedicated to a team in a society in which we keep overspecializing and identifying roles with persons.
If my role is being hired as a Finance specialist inside a product team this could be a good driver for change even though in an over-specialized world.
In front of the tons of enlightening articles that I read, there are many real situations that needs to be dealt with, putting together the situation at hand and the brains, opinions and ideas of the tenths or hundreds of persons that are living that situation.