The frustration of “lack of progress” with your product

On the outside looking in, its extremely frustrating to hear of product teams shipping product multiple times a day.

I tend to often question: “What in devil’s name am I doing wrong”?

  • Is it that I have not defined the product requirements right?
  • Have we hired the wrong people? Does our team not have enough experience?
  • Is our culture not supportive of mistakes?
  • Are we not focusing on the right things?
  • Do we not have the capability to get stuff done quickly?

Experience with multiple startups has taught me that its ignorant to compare your company with others (who might have stated at the same time) who have more “visible progress” than yours does.

But I hate that experience.

Its hard not to compare and question why is someone else doing so well with a smaller team than you have.

Experience has also taught me that startups for most parts (like kids) have a step function in progress. Its rarely a smooth “up and to the right”.

I hate that experience as well.

Should all that experience not make the next go around a lot smoother?

So the question – “What the value of all that experience”?

There’s only one answer – Its overvalued.

There’s one solution to most of these questions and although it is a cliche and often repeated, the answer is “Hire right” – whether its consultants or contractors or full-time employees, you need to constantly evaluate and hire the right people.

So, how do you hire right? And how do you define “right”?

So lets start with not the job description, but with your culture and values. Hire the right person that fits your culture and can align with your values.

If you culture is defined by moving fast, hire and attract people that can do that.

How do you determine if someone “fits” your culture if all you can do is interview them for 1 hour or so?

Write down questions to situations where you feel your culture will make them act one way versus the other. Ask those questions during the interview.

Depending on the answer to those questions you can determine if they can align.

What I have learned is people rarely change. So its hopeless to expect someone who is not a good cultural fit, to come in and get “religion”.

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7 thoughts on “The frustration of “lack of progress” with your product”

  1. Hi Mukund,
    Same pinch. 🙂 This post is as if you were reading my mind or I shared mine with you. I am bit relieved now – will go back and check on my kid.

  2. Great post, Mukund. Unfortunately, most organizations’ recruitment processes are such that the skill and logic part is tested using robust scientific methods, while the behavioral and cultural assessment is left to the discretion and judgement of the person or panel conducting the interview. Fortunately, today we have tools, techniques, and consultants (few are good though), to help organizations in areas such as psychoanalysis and psychometric testing (read personality and behavioral tests) that are fairly robust in decoding this blackbox.

  3. Good one. I believe the MOST important angle in the hiring process is also the least talked about – Gut feel

  4. Thanks for the interesting post.

    Some of the smaller companies that I have worked with use a version of predictive analysis tests to assess behavioral/psychometric aspects. Cultural fitment is not even on the radar.

    Some others (some of the MNCs) surprisingly have several rounds of verbal interviews to assess past experience, logic, problem-solving, etc, but have nothing in the form of behavioral or psychometric testing, or even cultural fitment for that matter. In fact, there is one company that does not assess written communication at all; which I found odd, since communication (verbal, written, body language is going to be the crux of how you deliver).

    It surprises me endlessly, that we place so much emphasis on assessing the skill levels in terms of subject matter knowledge, logical ability, problem solving etc, but fail to even scratch the surface of what lurks just beneath which is behavioral, psychometric and cultural layers which form the basis and platform from which all else can come forth from the individual and shine in the workplace.

    Companies have a cursory set of questions that touch upon these topics (if any at all) and this is done away with in the briefest of interactions. So we end up with someone on the team who will probably need very little training from a skills point of view in order to get the job done, but from a behavioral, psychometric or cultural standpoint pose a huge roadblock to achieve team goals.

    These start off as minor cracks from the deliverables standpoint and eventually progress to be huge gaps (the size of craters on the moon) if course correction does not happen at the earliest.

    As an aside, digressing from the main topic of Mukund’s post, I would go so far as to say that for me, with all else being equal and if the person is a fit for the profile from a skills point of view, the attributes/qualities that I would most want to assess at the preliminary round is integrity, stewardship and communication. All else can be learned.

    Good day 🙂

    1. This comment by sangeetha alone warrants a sequel to the original blog post worth the read and delve more.

      Thank you.

  5. If personality is assessed for the role, then culture will not be a pain. Example, if the need is for someone to code a logic or a defined functionality, and you look for a rock star coder who is super active on facebook, twitter , other social / personal networks, then you are in for a big trouble. Ideal candidate would be someone who how has zero ability to communicate with others, but can read and write clearly, has no distractions , can google to find the optimal approach and implement it. Heads down coder is what you need.

    Wrong hire or wrong team is a definite cause for Lack of progress but many times it is the leadership and wrong expectations that are the root cause problems 😉

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