Beyond the "Product Mindset"
March 9, 2021

Beyond the "Product Mindset"

by Brian de Haaff

What do you need to solve tough problems? Courage and boldness are a good start. You need to clearly articulate the value you are going to deliver. This approach automatically moves you beyond the "how" and casts your sights on the problems customers are looking to solve in a holistic way. And it is increasingly important for large companies who have been IT- and process-centric. We often hear that innovative teams are trying to transform the experiences they craft for customers.

You have likely heard this described as going from a "project" to a "product mindset." But I would consider this to be the "value mindset."

Going from a technology to a value mindset is about understanding the full scope of the customer problem and benefits they are going to realize from your solution. Our team at Aha! recently worked with one of the world's largest credit card companies — they were hoping to move away from viewing product development as a collection of projects and features delivered within a certain time frame. The goal was to empower their product teams to build what customers actually need and to drive more growth for the business.

They quickly realized how essential it was to embed that type of customer-centric thinking into how the team works. New processes had to be centered around delivering customer value and new tools were needed to facilitate those workflows. So they rolled out Aha! Roadmaps with product teams across the company. They are now able to connect tactical work to higher-level initiatives that are rooted in a deep understanding of what customers really need.

The result is an interactive product roadmap that visualizes progress towards goals in real time. They can monitor success through the lens of customer and business value rather than end dates and outputs. It was not an overnight change — the momentum had been building internally long before they engaged with our Customer Success concierge team.

Of course they engaged in complex work that we have summarized in a few short paragraphs. It is always a challenge to get an entire organization to put the customer first and to change how they think. You have to reconstruct deeply ingrained processes and inspire people to put customers at the center of everything. And there may be folks in your organization — often the ones who will be most impacted by these transformations — who are resistant or even attempt to stymie progress.

Big efforts require a real commitment to do well. You have to know what it takes to succeed and completely immerse yourself in the effort.

Since we work with so many organizations that are either actively going through this type of transformation or have recently, I thought it could benefit everyone if we shared our observations more widely. From our experience, here is what we have seen the best organizations get right when going through a value mindset transformation:

Start with the "why"

Leaders at these organizations have a clear purpose for adopting a value mindset. They want to build a better customer experience or motivate the organization to think in terms of value rather than tasks. They define a vision that serves this purpose and set meaningful, ambitious goals. There are areas of focus for how different teams can contribute to the success of the transformation. And leaders are able to explain what the desired outcome is and why it is so valuable.

Mandate at the executive level

You need the commitment of the entire organization. An executive mandate is critical for buy-in — demonstrating support and freeing up resources to make it happen. Leaders are talking about it daily. Leaders create a strategic plan that outlines which changes need to happen and when. This is what allows the organization to rally around value creation.

Identify groups of champions

There are designated champions who are responsible for motivating others. These folks are laser-focused on the vision and passionate about the future of the business. They embrace change and help their teams deliver exceptional customer experiences. They are well-respected individuals who are uniquely positioned to influence multiple functional groups.

Hold everyone accountable

Accountability is an obvious requirement. Leaders hold space for work that supports the transformation objectives. They help teams eliminate anything that lacks real purpose. Everyone is expected to prioritize work based on its impact to customers and the business — demonstrating how each part contributes to the whole. You have real data and retrospectively report on it. The impact is made visible.

It takes real dedication and follow-through to successfully shift to a product mindset. The outcome is better discipline in process and better discipline at the end.

I think the most fulfilling and gratifying part is when people begin to see that work will be better for them as a result. It feels good to be highly valuable and supportive of others.

One of the largest grocery retailers in the U.S. is another Aha! Roadmaps customer. Several months ago, I spoke with their executive champion — they had a lot of work to do but were headed in a good direction. I caught up with this champion again just last week and learned that it was an absolute success. People were enjoying their jobs more. This is the result of embracing a new way of working and a new way of serving. Helping others succeed is a value mindset in action.

Does your organization have a "value mindset?"

The road to building better products starts here.


Brian de Haaff

Brian seeks business and wilderness adventure. He is the co-founder and CEO of Aha! — the world’s #1 roadmap software — and the author of the bestseller Lovability. Brian writes and speaks about product and company growth and the adventure of living a meaningful life.

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