Strategically Clogged Backlogs

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Among the urgent calls from software teams to me for interim product leadership is a variety that I call “systemic product failure” or “strategically clogged backlog.” I dealt with this twice in 2011, so it’s worth describing for other product folks: sh*t isn’t getting done, product managers are drowning (or have been let go), and engineering is dangerously disconnected from internal stakeholders and customers. Software isn’t shipping, and backlogs are growing. This may not look like a product management breakdown, but it really is… and identifying its organizational/structural roots is key to turning the situation around. If you’re moving to a new product team within your company, or joining a new company that lacks strong product management, watch for systemic…

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A Journey of 1000 Miles is Still 1000 Miles Long

Planning to improve is good, but actually improving is better. Your backlog still needs to be cleared up one item at a time, however.

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Magical Thinking and the Zero-Sum Roadmap

Recent conversations at several clients highlight an often-repeated set of magical thinking: beliefs by internal clients that development resources are infinite, and beliefs by product managers that prioritization can convince anyone otherwise.  Both are wrong, but seductive.  Here goes… The starting point for this conversation is the typical product roadmap: crammed full of prioritized work and heavily negotiated with the development team.  Almost every optional item has been postponed, and there’s still some risk of delay.  This is a product plan with no “white space,” no large chunks of unallocated engineering capacity, no slop or slush funds or hidden treasure.

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