Why Your Busy Team Isn’t Getting Much Done

by Sean Boyce
busy man on hamster wheel

Everyone at this product company is always busy, but we keep falling short of our goals…

I call this the ‘hamster-wheel’ problem.  Everyone on your team is busy doing lots of stuff, but you’re not getting any closer to the success you need for your product company.

This problem happens when you and your team are not following the right process.  Work doesn’t need to just ‘get done’ at your company. It needs to get done for the right reason.  

So where do you start with fixing this problem?

Focus on the Why

If someone on your team is busy, but they don’t know how it translates to success for your product company, then you have a problem that needs fixing.  Tell your team to stop being busy just to be busy. If they don’t know how a task ties into the bigger picture for your product company they either need to ask until it’s clear or stop doing that task.  Tell them to ask why more often until the mission becomes clear and if it isn’t, then they should probably focus elsewhere.  

Start making data-driven decisions

At a product company, the goal is to be constantly bringing the best product to market that solves painful and expensive problems for our customers.  Data is a huge part of everything that we do and it should also be built into your decision making process.  

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If your engineering team is busy shipping tons of features then those features better be connected to solving customer problems and ultimately driving up the bottom line for the company.  Do you know whether or not it is? If you don’t, gather more data. Further evaluate the product development process. How does work get added to the backlog? For the tasks being prioritized, how are they helping our customers and ultimately our company?

Start prioritizing work based on the data

If your product backlog is a mess then clean it up.  Do so by adding another layer of information into the process.  Check each feature request. How many customers need each one? Re-sort your backlog with this information and see what it looks like now.  Prioritize the features requested by multiple customers. This is a great way to get a better return on your engineering efforts.  

I’d like to make a side note here – if you’ve got a ton of requests from only one customer, your product development process is broken and requires further evaluation.  This problem will drive your product away from your market.

Wondering whether or not your busy product team is actually getting anything done?  Let’s talk it through, email me at sean@nxtstep.io or visit us on the web at NxtStepTo get product stories like this one delivered right to your inbox – sign up for my emails or subscribe to my YouTube channel.

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