“It is possible to commit no mistakes and still lose. That is not a weakness. That is life.”
Wise words from a wise character.
With a new project, how can you increase the chances only fate determines your project’s success? In other words, how can you eliminate some big mistakes in the first place?
Use two tools: The Amazon Press Release and The Pre-Mortem
1) Working Backwards / The Amazon Press Release
The first exercise is to write the press release that you might publish later after you’ve built the product. It’s a 1-2 page living document which outlines the basic important things about your product. Speak simply and to the user – I recommend “Oprah speak”, the king of language Oprah might use. Include:
- the product
- its users
- what problem you’re solving
- how they currently solve it
- how your new solution is better
This short document should be the guiding force to refer to during the lifetime of your project. It will help the product team, the marketing team, the development team, and everyone else be on the same page from the very start. It’s a simple, powerful, useful exercise. Do it! The actual document will be useful, but the process of creating it is even more valuable. Make sure the whole team is involved here to improve organizational alignment and buy-in.
More information here:
- Template (click File > Make a copy, and get started!)
2) The Pre-Mortem
The second tool is another relatively short exercise, ideally performed as a team.
For this one, it’s even more important to get the whole team of stakeholders and contributors involved.
A pre-mortem involves thinking through the project, potential pitfalls, and how you can mitigate them before you even start. People can surface potential issues early and make plants to overcome them.
Some guiding questions:
- Why is this project going to fail? What might go wrong or lead to issues?
- What about the team will lead this project to fail? What might go wrong or lead to issues given the people involved? What can you do to mitigate this risk?
- What about the product will cause the project to fail? What might go wrong or lead to issues given the product? What can you do to mitigate this risk?
- What about the market will cause the product to fail? What might go wrong or lead to issues given the market? What can you do to mitigate this risk?
- What about the technology will cause the project to fail? What might go wrong or lead to issues given the technology being used? What can you do to mitigate this risk?
More information here: https://hbr.org/2007/09/performing-a-project-premortem
The two exercises are straightforward and amazingly powerful. The handful of hours they take will be some of the best time you spend on a new project / as you build a new product. These two tools will help create clarity and bring to the surface known issues. By using the Amazon Press Release and the Pre-Mortem exercises, you increase your chances of success.