Ford Wants Faster Product Launches

Ford Wants Faster Product Launches, Harrison, not Henry (but Henry has some good thoughts too)

(Indiana Jones on Faster Product Launching)

We can’t launch that to our customers, they will put us on the cover of
Wall Street Journal when the BLANK fails or stops working

Or what about?

If the random repetition pattern XXX4 of the flux capacitor hits a random event
there is a .0006% chance the solution will freeze, we have to solve that first.

Indy, would these statements from your stakeholders shock you?

Nothing shocks me, I’m a scientist.

Sensitivities of your brand are valid motivators and value-add strategies to any new product launch.  You never want to introduce something that has consumed company resources that could cause more damage than good.  On the other hand, if you take too long to launch, you risk missing the relevance window and getting crushed by your competition. How do you best balance this difficult conundrum?

agile fu tip # 1

If you can solve this, you will establish yourself as highly valuable to your company and highly coveted in the market.

First, you need to be keenly aware of the brand reputation that you are desperately protecting.  Both the current brand and the future strategy brand.  Is the company’s (or division’s) brand different from your personal brand?  If the company is known for taking risks and being the first-to-market  but  your personal brand is being deliberate and safe, which King do you serve?  Conversely, if your company’s brand is slow and steady and you are fast and daring, who wins?  If the company’s strategy in this area is not clear or is currently changing, invest time with the folks that are responsible for this and sink your teeth firmly into the strategy. Once you feel comfortable with the company brand you will be better at decision-making.  For example, if you are a company seeking to diversify itself from its competition by being innovative, you know you need to lean into the uncomfortability of not having a perfect product.

agile fu tip # 2

Know what you are fighting for.

Indy, will that be hard for you to do?

Listen. Since I’ve met you I’ve nearly been incinerated, drowned,
shot at,and chopped into fish bait. We’re caught in the middle of something sinister
here, my guess is dad found out more than he was looking for and until I’m sure,
I’m going to continue to do things the way I think they should be done

Second, and lastly, you need to be keenly aware that this is not your Grandfather’s product launching landscape.The times, they are a changing.  If you struggle with balancing the tightrope of a safe product launch and a daring product launch, look to the success of other companies.  Plagiarize. You don’t think  you are the only person launching products do you?  Here are some examples of product launches that intentionally went fast and early, while sacrificing a perfect product.  Of note, the majority of these specifically operate on Lean Startup principles from Eric Ries built upon the importance of validated feedback.

It’s a new game, right Indy?  Why do people need to change?

Fortune and glory, kid.  Fortune and glory.

agile fu tip # 3

Don’t let perfect be the enemy of the good.

  • The first automobile launched in only one color and did not have reverse.  Do you think the product council said “Hey, Henry, we can’t launch this without the ability to go backwards.  What if you get stuck in a corner and starve to death?  We will have so much liability on our hands we will have to file bankruptcy.” – No, they obviously didn’t.  Work out for Henry?
  • The first laptop weighed 16 pounds, had to be plugged-in and cost more than $3,000. Did they deliberate on “16 pounds is hardly portable, what if someone breaks their back, will we pay their hospital bills” or “Who in the heck will pay the same price as a car for a computer that has a 3.5” screen?” – Work out for Apple?
  • Facebook launched without a timeline, without status updates, without video and without apps. Did Zuckerberg have to abate these questions, “What the heck is the point if you can’t post what you ate for breakfast and how many times you went to the gym?  How are people going to see hilarious videos of cats?”   –  Work out for Facebook?
  • The first iPhone launched without a front-facing camera, without copy/paste, without video support and only had one distribution channel. Did Steve Jobs have to battle the naysayers of “You can’t even take a selfie with this, who will buy it?  What if a customer is on Verizon or Sprint, they can’t even use it?”   –  Work out for Steve Jobs?
  • Twitter launched without the hashtag #.  Can you imagine a product without its very core competency launching and didn’t even have a seedling of a vision of what a hashtag is?     #CanYouPictureATwitterWithoutTheHashtag
  • Zappos launched with Polaroid pictures of shoes from Foot Locker and had zero inventory.  Did Tony have to stave off his experts saying “We don’t even have a freaking product?  We are selling other people’s products at retail price and losing money!”  –  Work out for Zappos?
  • LinkedIn launched without endorsements, recommendations and without an integration into address books for contacts.  Did they get stuck on “If you can’t recommend and refer people, what is the point of the website?  How are people going to find contacts or build a network without address books?”  –  Work out for LinkedIn?
agile fu tip # 4

Know your craft.

Balancing risk with innovation can be done and has been done.  It is increasingly difficult when the company lacks a clear brand strategy and when an associate is disconnected personally, or worse, at odds with, that strategy.  Seek first to understand the organizational vision on product launching and seek second to see what the industry has done.  You don’t have to reinvent the wheel and you don’t have to operate from a position of fear.  Once you align with the company’s vision, it will be easier for you to make decisions on when to (or when not to) release your baby cub into the wilderness.

Indy, what do you think about getting out and understanding your profession?

If you want to be a good archaeologist, you got to get out of the library.

agile fu tip # 5

Get out of the library.

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