I make sure teams plan, design, and build software that users love.

Crucial User Research

Build products that fulfill the needs of your target audience.

You'll have to discover:

  • Who your customers are
  • What needs they have
  • How to provide the solutions that work

The first two steps are what Steve Blank calls Customer Development. In Customer Development you define your assumptions, rewrite them in hypotheses, test them, and verify them with your target customer.

During the verification phase, assess your solutions with User Tests. Jeffrey Rubin and Dana Chisnell of the Handbook of Usability Testing coin three different tests: Exploratory-, Assessment-, and Validation User Tests

In Exploratory Tests, you examine the effectiveness of preliminary concepts.

In Assessment Tests, you evaluate the usability of lower-level aspects of the solution.

At the end of these two tests, verify whether the solution works for your potential customers, solves their pain point, and does your business well.

After, make the decision to iterate or exit.

When you do iterate, use Validation User Tests to assess whether an iteration meets the usability standards you set based on the Assessment test.

Using a more lean way of doing Customer Development (as defined by Cindy Alvarez or Rob Fitzpatrick) allows you to do this per feature of your product.

The written narrative that saves decision-making

Amazon dislikes PowerPoint presentations at meetings.

In his LinkedIn post, ex-Amazonian Brad Porter mentions most businesses make decisions based on partial context and logical flaws in data.

Amazon does not. Instead, they use a 6-page narrative memo that everyone reads in the meeting itself. This memo describes:

  • The vision of what you're trying to achieve,
  • why this will be valuable for your customers
  • why this is good for your business
  • and the high-level strategy for achieving the vision.

Writing such a memo requires you to think deeply about an initiative. It forces the writer to consider and address the various perspectives and constraints.

It helps make more informed decisions.

Distractions are a result, not a cause

I've been trying to be more productive. I deleted all social media apps from my phone. But, I'd just find other distractions.

Oliver Burkeman's thesis in Four Thousand Weeks is that we have never really come to terms with our limited life. That it is uncomfortable to think we can't do everything we want.

We feel we deserve all experiences life has to offer. That we should take control of our finite time. And, we wrongly believe being distracted is giving up that control.

He argues our distractions are the result of our efforts to “seek relief from our discomfort of confronting limitation”.

We'd just have to accept that the discomfort is part of the experience. That we will always be reminded of our limits when we commit ourselves to demanding and valuable tasks.

Distraction is just an easier, and less valuable way to use up our finite time.

The infamous Swoop-and-Poop

Executives have their sense of authority and control threatened when they are not kept in the loop. They start doing 'swoop-and-poops': Hasty decisions about things they have little understanding. Ken Blancherd called this (jokingly) Seagull management.

The Swoop-and-Poop is a sign that there is a problem with the communication to stakeholders. Look for scalable ways to fix that disconnect.

  • Have them occasional join the daily standup
  • Transparency in task and roadmaps
  • Update emails / calls

Set up a formal process for handling last-minute requests to prevent the poop-and-swoop influencing daily work negatively.

Strategy is seriously misunderstood

Many companies equate having a release plan to having a strategy. Some might even confuse a company mission for a strategy. Others mistake a visionary leader or being innovative as a strategy.

Richard Rumelt, author of Good Strategy / Bad Strategy, explains every effective strategy has three principles:

  1. Diagnosis
  2. Guiding Policy
  3. Coherent Action

First, we analyze what's going on. Then we define an approach for overcoming what we found. Third, we outline coherent coordinated actions that will help us achieve the desired outcome.

Only do work with an outcome defined

It's senseless to work on something without a clearly defined outcome (not output). We should reject random effort. The 'Why' needs to be answered before anything else.

Our roadmaps need to read 'Increase user engagement'. As it is a stronger, activating goal to pursue than 'Release shared profiles feature'.

Every initiative we take are steps towards the prize. The art is in prioritizing expected results.