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How Becoming Experts in Failure Helps Your Digital Product Development

How Becoming Experts in Failure Helps Your Digital Product Development

  • Leadership /
  • Product Strategy /

Our world continues to become digitized at a rapidly accelerating pace.  With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, businesses are learning to rethink how technology can serve them effectively.  Jonathon spoke with Tony Richards recently on the Better Than Before Podcast about the four levels of alignment and embracing failure in the digital product development lifecycle


Why do so Many Projects Fail?

“Most projects have some level of misalignment.  The thing that gets talked about the most is the lack of market fit. Somehow, whatever the product or idea that an organization has isn’t really aligned to the needs, effectively solving the problem for a particular group of people. The other part to that is they might be misaligned with how much value is being created in the market, meaning that the product just isn’t honestly that good. It’s not creating enough value for somebody to switch from whatever current solution they have or something else that is just easier to do. And so the cost of switching or adopting that product is just too high to realize the value of the product and gain market share. When we get past that, though, this is where I think the really interesting stuff comes in. What are the root causes of internal sabotage? And that’s why there’s so much focus in the way that we look at alignment at the individual, the team and the organization level. I’m not saying that market fit is an easy thing. But what’s far more difficult is to not fall into the traps that create misalignment and failure internally. There are so many facets to it. Two examples, right off the top: managing expectations, and siloed knowledge.”


Failure in the Product Development Lifecycle 

“Become experts in failure. It sounds counterintuitive at some level. But what it really does is it helps us navigate failure throughout the entire product development lifecycle, or any digital transformation initiative for that matter whether it’s customer oriented or an internal lead driving operations or employee engagement, or, in a COVID era, employee safety in the modernization of the workplace. It’s very important to understand what causes failure. It takes ego out of the equation, it really helps leaders and teams look at problems together in a much more comprehensive way and how they want to drive outcomes.”


The Importance of Knowing What You Don’t Know

“When we talk to leaders, we talk about: what do you know that you don’t know? And then how do we start a path of understanding of what you need to know to go forward with whatever your specific project may be? When somebody is really open to that conversation, it transforms how you can plan and navigate developing a strategy to implement and realize the value of that product that you want to create going forward.”


Unpacking the 4 Levels of Alignment

“I think alignment is one of those things intrinsically most of us really have a baseline understanding that it (alignment) is important. What I find is that we need to unpack what alignment really means.  So really getting to the guts of understanding what alignment is, and the different levels of alignment become really important.”   

The first level is individual alignment. “Helping team members understand how they contribute to the organization, why their work matters. People have talked a long time about this, how there’s a new generation of people coming in that really want to have purpose to their work. We’ve shifted dramatically in the way that we need to engage employees and really bring all their talents to the forefront. That really comes with understanding that from a leadership perspective of the individual alignment and how important that is. The second level is team alignment, which really deals with how we build alignment with others and integrate the unique disciplines and experiences and perspectives of our coworkers and across teams together so we can solve problems more effectively together, and deliver consistent outcomes more effectively as well. The third level is organizational alignment that deals with building alignment that reflects the entire organization, vision and strategic priorities, which is not always very easy to do, especially depending on the size of the organization. And the fourth level is understanding market alignment, which deals with really understanding your customers and their needs and the problem that you need to be solving for them in order to create value.”


Listen to the entire podcast on Spotify:




Forward. Digital. Thinking.

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