Principles guiding SimpSocial’s products: Begin with the issue at hand to find better solutions.
“The issue we’re attempting to address is…”
That is a typical SimpSocial opening line. Not only in product reviews, roadmap discussions, or product team design criticisms but throughout the organization.
This article is the seventh in a series addressing the guiding concepts behind our products. Stephen covers the “Start with the Problem” engineering tenet in this section.
People from around the firm demonstrate what they have been working on in our customary Friday afternoon “Show and Tells,” and they always begin by outlining the issue. Everyone who joins SimpSocial receives their first “Intermission”—our word for a problem statement—in their onboarding package. You start by concentrating on a difficulty when you first begin.
We have a valid reason to fixate on issues.
The quality of your solution depends on how well you comprehend the issue.
Most businesses fail. Because they didn’t present a compelling solution to a genuine client problem, many businesses fail, especially in the early stages.
There are numerous recurring themes among unsuccessful solutions:
The team’s first comprehension of the issue was inadequate.
The team didn’t refresh their knowledge of the issue and how it related to the solution over time.
The issue wasn’t important enough to warrant solving it, or perhaps it wasn’t urgent enough to warrant attention.
Companies all too frequently make the mistake of moving fast from the issue to a single solution that they fall in love with. They devote time, resources, and effort to this answer only to discover that no one is genuinely interested in it.
“Truly great companies understand that it’s simpler to create things that people want than it is to create things that people desire.”
The best businesses understand that it’s simpler to produce what customers want than to try to make them want it. At SimpSocial, we strive to start with an understanding of a genuine issue that one of our target consumers is facing. It seems so straightforward, but if concentrating on the issue is so important, why do so few businesses do it?
By nature, people think in terms of solutions.
Everyone has heard the saying, “Don’t bring me problems, bring me solutions.” Our minds are continuously working to find solutions to the issues at hand. However, our solutions run the danger of falling short if we don’t take the time to break down, explore, and analyze the issues facing our clients. Here are a few causes of problems being disregarded in favor of quick fixes.
The difficulty is in developing a system view and comprehending how the system functions or does not function as a whole.
1. Your system-based product
Accurately diagnosing confusing problems can get more difficult the more popular your product, business, and customer base become.
The problem is to develop a system view and comprehend how the system is working—or not working—together as there are more and more variables in play. For instance, why is it that a product’s consumption is low? Is there a problem with user experience or education, a lack of a feature, or something else entirely?
Problem definition is challenging.
People frequently express difficulties they have in terms of desired solutions. Many product teams make the mistake of stopping there and developing that solution, which usually falls short because the real issue is buried a little bit deeper. Good product teams continue to work and question why.
“Problem definition” means “getting out of your head and into theirs, getting to the bottom of their actual need, not the first thing they describe.”
This can be time-consuming and emotionally taxing. It calls for repeatedly speaking with a large number of clients while focusing on fresh perspectives and lines of inquiry. It entails putting yourself in their shoes and understanding their true needs, which may not be what they initially describe.
3. The options are bright.
A study report or a brand-new functional prototype—which is more exciting? Most of us enjoy perusing interesting, somewhat functional new stuff. We don’t have time to read reports, and contemplating and learning deeply are sometimes viewed as time-consuming or unnecessary.
The impact is more significant than the gloss, as we at SimpSocial are aware. When we come across beautifully worded issue statements that we know will serve as a solid guide for the work that follows, we feel enthusiastic.
4. Visible results and a preference for “progress”
A team may labor diligently for weeks only to generate a brief, straightforward statement outlining the issue that has to be resolved. It’s challenging to persuade someone who doesn’t value this procedure of its worth based solely on the results.
Stakeholders that are farther away from the underlying issue will gravitate toward “tangible progress” and are more inclined to find solace in any solution, whether or not it actually solves the issue.
What, then, is the remedy if that is the issue?
while one of our fundamental R&D concepts, “Start with the Problem,” is prominently displayed, emphasizing its significance and ensuring that we keep it in mind while we work. It serves as a catalyst for the activation of tools and specific expectations that we may all use. Here are some of the ways SimpSocial prioritizes issues.
We permit attention to be drawn to issues.
At SimpSocial, we prioritize principles above processes; therefore, this principle directs our attention to the right areas regardless of whether we use agile, lean, or another product development process.
Most businesses focus too little on comprehending and prioritizing the problems they need to solve and instead spend too much time designing and developing a solution. If each side is given 100 units of focus, they will often use them as follows:
The majority of businesses time is spent creating and designing solutions.
The majority of businesses will devote most of their effort to planning and developing the solution before distributing a beta to their clients. That strategy, in our opinion, is faulty because it leans too strongly toward developing solutions based on a poor understanding of the problem. On the other hand, here is a general outline of how SimpSocial employees spend their time: We spent a lot of time prioritizing and improving the problem as we divided our work more evenly throughout the stages.
We have already used a third of our 100 units before we have even begun creating anything. At this point, we are fixated on problem prioritization and problem definition, and as we gain new knowledge, we keep revising our understanding of the problem. By investing this time at the beginning of the process, we can better plan what we need to produce and deliver it to clients more quickly.
We identify expectations for problem definition.
There is no set amount of time you should spend identifying the problem, and the scale or effort of any of our principles can vary. You can complete the process in an hour, a day, a week, or even ten weeks. We employ a number of recommendations to assist people and teams in triaging and determining the right amount of work to devote to a particular problem:
1. It’s acceptable to switch between issues and solutions.
This is referred to as “porpoising between problem and solution” by Charles Conn and Robert McLean in their book Bulletproof Problem Solving. Going back and forth between the two is supposed to help you better understand each, but it’s important to avoid becoming too attached to either your perspective on the issue or the solution.
Confusion might result from attempting to simultaneously take into account both client and business needs.
2. Rather than the company’s problem, begin with the customer’s.
Confusion might result from attempting to simultaneously take into account both client and business needs. We purposefully start by concentrating on the concerns of the customers before taking into account how these problems may affect the business. Make sure to directly link any business challenges you’re seeking to solve to customer issues.
3. Who is experiencing this issue, and what has to be done?
Where the customer’s expectations and reality diverge, there is a problem. You must specify the objectives they are aiming for as well as the expectations and experiences you are concentrating on.
4. Pay attention to how serious the issue is.
How many clients is the issue affecting, and how much are they being impacted?
“Problem statements are too frequently fluff and high-level,”
5. Track the effects
At SimpSocial, we define success metrics in advance as a step in the process of defining problems. This enables us to identify the most important alterations in consumer behavior that will allow us to know when the issue has been resolved.
6. Be particular
Problem statements are far too frequently vague and high-level. It’s crucial to define your problem with enough detail to assist you in coming up with a solution.
7. Define the issue
Issues frequently have multiple layers, and depending on your target market and product, they may even have tentacles. It’s crucial to deconstruct your issue so that you can better concentrate on each component while also mapping it to your potential solutions so you can select the one that works best.
To ensure that everyone is using the same format, we employ a template, however, this document frequently comes with a lot of background information that is located elsewhere.
As we learn more throughout the process and, most crucially after we ship, we change our thinking on the issue.
The basis is the problem’s definition. From that point on, our guiding principles function as a mechanism to guide us from issue to resolution. As we gain new information throughout the process and, most critically, after we ship, we revise our initial understanding of the issue.
When solving issues, we work as a team.
We are all product people at SimpSocial, each with our own areas of expertise. Every individual has a duty to delve into, comprehend, and hold themselves accountable for truly solving the challenges they’re experiencing. The product manager may own the problem definition.
This influences how to define the problem. In order to create a shared understanding, it entails incorporating more people in the research process and sharing interviews and perspectives. Although it may take some time for employees to become used to this strategy and recognize its benefits, it is well worth the effort to increase the build’s efficiency and the solution’s precision.
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