Here’s a fact about starting new products within companies: it’s hard to say yes to them initially, but then once they do get started, it’s equally hard to say no to them, to keep them from growing and taking up ever more resources.
This is all due to uncertainty – there’s always a ton of uncertainty around any new idea, and uncertainty works to maintain status quo. If a new idea hasn’t gotten a green light, maybe it’s safer not to green light it. If that idea is already started, maybe safer just to keep it going.
That’s exactly the opposite of the environment you want though. What you want is an environment where it’s easy to say yes to new ideas – easy to get them started – and then also easy to say no – easy to stop them, or not give them more budget – if they aren’t proving out.
There are three things that make it easier for you to say yes and say no to new ideas. They are:
1. Measurable goals
3. Competing ideas
Measurable goals – if you have stated concrete, measurable goals for every new product you’re considering, that becomes the milestone by which you can then judge that idea. For an initial “yes” the milestone must be significant/worthwhile yet also plausible. And then of course hitting goals or not hitting them gives you the basis you need for saying yes or no easily at varying points down the road.
The goals have to be set, written out, and agreed on by all in advance.
Timeboxing – setting firm start and end dates to the effort – allows any idea to keep from creeping along indefinitely. It creates a finite runway for achieving those goals. If a new idea doesn’t achieve the stated goals within the stated time, that makes it easy to say no to continuing to fund it.
Competing ideas – without other ideas waiting in the wings to get a green light for resources, points one and two above have no teeth. Product ideas that miss their target, or overshoot their runway, tend to keep going because there’s just nowhere else to put that budget. Having competitive ideas vying for that budget keeps the pressure on those new products to meet those goals within those timeboxes.
When you get this all set up right, it’s easy to say yes and easy to say no to ideas at the right time and sleep easy at night, confident that you’re making the right choices. That’s what you want in any new product environment.
When it’s not set up right, uncertainty prevails, and status quo sets in for good. And that’s the death of new ideas.