Requirement – The Product Must NOT Poison the Children

Today I bring you an overlap between 2 stories about product requirements.

Marty Cagan from the Silicon Valley Product Group describes the business situation where the process of carefully understanding the needs of your customers are generally seen as the front end of a linear production line. Every good Product Manager knows that this “linear” process is usually a furphy.

Marty continues to explain that the process of identifying, articulating and solving a market problem does not always have a point to point start and finish. It often requires a number of iterations and feedback loops before a new product opportunity can be realised. A common misconception is that this will have to take a long time. These cycles of “Product Discovery” (as Marty has referred to it) can be done quite quickly, but to get a good outcome they must still be done thoroughly.

When they are just done in a purely linear fashion there is limited opportunity to fix issues that come up during the “Discovery” process. Even worse, if you don’t have an opportunity to cycle back, important requirements can be missed with disastrous results.

The story of the Chinese manufactured Mattel toys is a depressing example of this. Bob Corrigan from ack/nak relates the embarrassing backflip that Mattel had to take to apologise to the Chinese. They initially implied that the fault of the recall of unsafe toys was due to the Chinese manufacturer. Instead it turns out that the toys were made to the provided product requirements.

So the moral of this story is:

  1. Make sure that you have to opportunity to cycle through the Product Discovery process more than once
  2. Don’t skimp on your requirements.

Be careful! Or you might just get what you asked for!