Time to Market - It’s Not Just About Speed
I remember when I got a brand-new racing game for the Xbox a few years ago. My sons and I unwrapped it, popped it in, and marveled at the amazing graphics. The cars and scenery looked so real, so amazing! In our first race, we all excitedly chose supercars...and struggled mightily to control their enormous power just to get around the racetrack. We wrecked often and hilariously. In the second race, my sons tried the same approach...and I tried a more modest car. They laughed at me, confident in their ability to outgun my “underpowered” vehicle. And then they wrecked often and hilariously. As long as I stayed out of the path of their carnage, I was able to navigate to the finish line with relative ease. It turns out speed for the sake of speed isn’t that helpful.
When I’m describing the Key Value Areas (KVAs) of Evidence-Based Management, I find Time to Market is often misunderstood to mean “just go faster.” And, there is some truth to the need to address speedy delivery in order to be successful in today’s marketplace. However, we need to scrub off the scent of “we know what we need to do, we just need to do it faster.” This directly flies in the face of the reality of our situation, the empiricism that Evidence-Based Management calls us toward, and what is needed for organizations operating in complexity.
Just going faster doesn’t work if we’re assuming that we know where we need to go and how we need to get there. In complexity, goals and execution have a lot of unknowns, and things emerge as we do the work. So, we will be unsuccessful if we choose to follow a plan, even if we do it faster. Speed for the sake of speed, if you will.
On the other hand, if we handle goals and plans with both confidence and openness to question, learn, and change...we will handle Time to Market in a completely different way. The key is to recognize our assumptions and then test them frequently - what I’ve heard another trainer call “making learning a first class citizen.”
When we focus on trying to head toward a goal, while simultaneously asking how we’re doing at getting there and questioning whether that’s still the best goal for us, we’ll look at Time to Market as something that either enables or hinders this learning process. If it takes us a long time to test our assumptions about what the customers need, we’ll learn very slowly, possibly slower than our competitors and slower than our customers’ needs change. Our risk is that we aren’t able to learn fast enough to succeed.
In this light, we see that the questions the Time to Market KVA is meant to help us with snap into focus:
- How fast can the organization learn from new experiments and information?
- How fast can you adapt based on the information?
- How fast can you test new ideas with customers?
Now we can approach the technical, interpersonal, and process challenges of decreasing time to market with a clear view of why we’re doing it. These ideas challenge us to change the size of what we work on - biasing us toward smaller items and releases - and automate the repeatable parts of our work. The faster we can discover whether a new feature is used by our product’s customers, the faster we’ll learn whether we should invest more or modify our investment. (Read more about the Investment Cycle here…) The smaller the feature is we release, and the fewer we release together, the faster we can get it into the hands of our users and learn how valuable it is.
Some of the Key Value Measures for you to consider when addressing the Time to Market questions are:
- Build and Integration Frequency
- Release Frequency
- Lead Time
- Time to Learn
- Time to Pivot
If you feel like you’ve mastered that, the next challenging question to ask is, “How fast is fast enough?” For that, you need to look at all the KVAs and the empirical loops in Evidence-Based Management.
Godspeed on your journey. :)