Tom Petrocelli's take on technology. Tom is the author of the book "Data Protection and Information Lifecycle Management" and a natural technology curmudgeon. This blog represents only my own views and not those of my employer, Enterprise Strategy Group. Frankly, mine are more amusing.

Friday, June 12, 2009

People. People Who Need People.

If you ever saw Sesame Street then you know the tune to “Who Are The People In Your Neighborhood?” Sing with me...

So after complaining bitterly about people who kill innovation and products, I thought it made sense to talk about the people who do the opposite. The people who make innovative products happen. I'm not talking about the folks who are tasked with designing and creating new products like engineers. They can make a product but cannot make a product happen.

So, here I want to sing about the unsung heroes of the product development process. Cue the Bob and Muppets please.

The Visionary

Behind every successful product stands a visionary. The Visionary recognizes good ideas and has that irrational need to see them turned into useful products. They never lose faith even when the folks in Sales declare they could never sell it and the Finance people are totally freaking out with thoughts of bankruptcy burning in their heads.

It's not that The Visionary doesn't get the risks, they just see beyond them. They provide the energy that keeps people going in the face of setbacks and derision. Lacking The Visionary, the most innovative products die on the vine, starved for affection and direction. Without The Visionary, everyone on the product development team eventually wanders off to more acceptable projects with more predictable outcomes. In other words, incremental boring product development instead of the truly wonderful.

The Visionary provides the necessary moral support during the darkest days. Kind of a combination of mom and Yoda.

The Git-er-done Guy

Whereas The Visionary has the faith, they often don't have a clue how to make the vision occur in real life. That's where The Git-er-done Guy comes in. They can map out all the things that need to occur in order for the vision to be realized. The Git-er-done Guy makes sure everyone stays on track and actually makes the blasted product. If there is no Git-er-done Guy, product development degrades into naval gazing and staring at the stars. Nice recreation but rarely productive.

Let me put it another way – no one buys vision. Okay some VC's do but not your average consumer. The Git-er-done Guy makes sure the grand idea becomes a grand product.

The Plumber

Sooner or later, all product development runs into problems. This is especially true for the most innovative products. Often, it's the internal workings of the corporation that are clogging up the works and impeding progress. It's sad but true that there are a lot of people within a company that will not benefit from an innovative new product. It might be because it will take away resources or attention from their own products. Another likely culprit is FUD – Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt. When a company does something it has never done before, it scares the heck out of a lot of well meaning folks. And there are the power mongers who see a new initiative as a threat to their own status and well being.

All of this negative energy has a tendency to hold up product development like a stuck drain. Enter The Plumber!

The Plumber knows how to remove obstacles. The Plumber knows the workarounds. The Plumber gleefully unclogs the corporate drain and lets the project flow normally. You can tell who The Plumber is because they are first person to say “ Let me see what I can do..” when some obstacle is holding up forward motion. They have the skills and, more importantly, the desire to roto-router the clog and get things moving again. They might only appear once during a project but boy are you glad they did.

Making products, especially the best, most innovative, and coolest products, is an act of faith. Lots of people lack that faith and actively suck the air out of the room. The Visionary, The Git-er-done Guy, and The Plumber make sure all the negative vibes (and action) don't kill or maim the wonderful and new. Find them. Foster them. Then thank them.

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