Chapter 4: The Three Keys to Unlocking Productivity

In business, the quest for productivity is like the Holy Grail—universally sought but rarely attained. This chapter unpacks the three key factors that can set your organisation on the path to a 10x productivity revolution. Drawing from time-tested principles and contemporary insights, we delve into the new ways of Leading, Thinking, and Working that every organisation needs to adopt.


The Magic Number: Three

The number three has a magical significance, not just in folklore but in cognitive psychology as well. Our brains are wired to remember things in threes. This chapter presents a triad of factors—Leading, Thinking, and Working—critical for achieving unprecedented productivity. The sequence matters: starting with leadership sets the stage for organisational culture and process improvements. Many organisations start with the ways of working and concentrate on operational methods, such as Scrum, Kanban, or Agile, bypassing the critical steps of cultivating the right mindset and leadership style. This oversight can stymie progress. Consider the servant leadership model integral to Scrum; it’s often conspicuously absent when businesses hastily assemble Scrum teams. Similarly, leadership teams may rush to adopt Agile methodologies without a foundational understanding of constraint theory, undermining their efforts.

New Ways of Leading: Diverse Culture, Outcome-Based Objectives, and Effective Measures

Leadership is the lynchpin of any organisation’s success. Effective leaders set the tone, define the culture, and create the right motivational ecosystem. They understand the importance of a diverse culture that encourages different perspectives and innovative solutions. They also emphasise outcome-based objectives, steering clear of the vanity metrics that often mislead organisations.


Culture and Incentives

Financial incentives are not the silver bullet for motivation. Research reveals that performance-based pay can actually demotivate employees. Instead, organisations should focus on intrinsic rewards like job satisfaction, creativity, and teamwork. For example, Google’s “20% time” allows employees to work on side projects, which not only fosters creativity but has also led to some of Google’s most successful products, like Gmail.


New Ways of Thinking: An Agile, Adaptive, Constraints-Aware Mindset

An agile mindset isn’t just for software development; it’s a way of approaching any problem. Organisations need to move from a fixed to a growth mindset, encouraging employees to learn, adapt, and improve. Businesses often fall into the trap of hiring more people to solve problems, but the answer often lies in better utilising existing resources. By adopting a constraints-aware mindset, organisations can do more with less.


The Productivity Paradox

Executives often acknowledge the need for productivity improvements but fail to act. This paradox can be broken by a holistic approach that includes training everyone in the organisation to overcome constraints. A Chief Productivity Officer or a Lean Six Sigma consultant can offer short-term gains but for sustainable growth, the change must be organisational.


New Ways of Working: Streamlined Processes and Integrated Tools

In the digital age, the right tools and processes can significantly boost productivity. Tools should not only automate tasks but also provide actionable insights. Organisations should aim to build digital operating models that facilitate real-time decision-making.


The Pitfalls of Traditional Processes

Ironically, some processes meant to improve quality and efficiency, like ISO 9000, can become burdensome and counterproductive with team maintaining documents that few people ever read apart from the assessor. Companies should aim for a balance between structure and flexibility.


The Synergistic Triad: Leading, Thinking, Working

It’s crucial to understand that Leading, Thinking, and Working are not isolated pillars but form a synergistic triad. Each element influences the other, and the absence or failure of one can bring down the entire structure. Achieving a 10x productivity increase isn’t just a lofty goal; it’s a necessity in today’s fast-paced, competitive landscape. Organisations that invest in effective leadership, adopt an agile mindset, and streamline their processes are not just setting themselves up for incremental gains; they are igniting a revolution.
Interested in learning how to implement these strategies in your organisation for a 10x productivity boost? Book a meeting with me to discuss customised solutions tailored to your needs.

Chapter 1: Understanding the 10x Productivity Revolution

The 10x productivity revolution isn’t about a tenfold workload increase. Instead, it’s about amplifying efficiency, effectiveness, and impact ten times over by reframing focus from mere output to quality outcomes. It’s about doing more with less and understanding that constraints aren’t barriers but opportunities for focused innovation.

All organizations could benefit from such a shift, but some like the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) could benefit much more. From the outside, it appears to be a bureaucratic mess; with complexities and numerous competing priorities, the system seems inefficient. I often think the NHS has a product management problem, not a management problem. However, it most likely has both. If the NHS focused on customer experience (CX), customer journey mapped its services/products focused initially on its citizens’ most crucial healthcare needs, the NHS could provide superior patient outcomes and service, and reduce system inefficiencies. It should be a world-class organization with its customer data that could drive AI and its monopoly on the market. In the world of software as a service, and service as software the NHS fails to demonstrate the power of joined-up, thinking, leveraging its data assets for AI and connecting its patience with joined-up experiences that enhance their lives by supporting prevention and treatment. Instead, it’s a collection of disparate pieces, all using different systems and technologies, separate leadership, and teams, driving separate agendas. The admin and cost of such a disconnected way of working must be astronomical. One of the deliberate decisions that good product managers make is to build, buy or partner decisions. This approach could shift towards a collaborative, outcome-focused system from the current fragmented, business model. Moreover, it could foster a culture that values innovation, problem-solving, and individual empowerment. So what are organizations like the NHS to do?

The 10x Mission

As proponents of the 10x revolution, our mission is to embrace novel leadership methods, innovative thinking, and efficient work practices. Our goal is to eradicate unproductive ‘busy work’ and consistently deliver value that is customer-centric, sustainable, and mindful of constraints. To fulfil this mission, we must champion diverse cultures, modern leadership styles, and outcome-based measurements that align with our organisation’s objectives. We need to foster an agile mindset, focusing on customers and value and ensuring our processes and tools are fit for purpose.

The following 10x productivity principles:

  1. Focus on Customer Value: Prioritise your customers’ needs and desires in every undertaking.
  2. Outcomes Over Output: Success is measured by your impact on your customers and organisation, not merely the volume of work produced.
  3. Constrained Innovation: View limitations and constraints as opportunities for creativity and innovation.
  4. Unleash Productivity: Eliminate “busy work” and unnecessary tasks that distract from your goals.
  5. Continuous Learning: Always strive to improve and grow, remaining curious and open to new ideas.

While prioritising outcomes over outputs isn’t new, it’s paramount in our AI-dominated era. It means adopting a holistic approach to productivity measurement, factoring in aspects such as employee engagement, customer satisfaction, and sustainability.

Goal-setting is often a challenging task for many businesses. Microsoft’s Rhythm of Business (ROB) process, involving monthly check-ins and progress tracking against objectives, stands out as an effective approach. Another proven method is the use of Objectives and Key Results (OKRs), a tool for setting and achieving specific, measurable, and time-bound goals, as advocated by John Doerr, the famous venture capitalist.

Redefining Knowledge Work

Knowledge work will fundamentally change as we shift focus from ‘busy work’ to problem-solving, leveraging our unique human capabilities and emotional intelligence. This change involves identifying and eradicating ‘busy work,’ tasks that add minimal or no value. I propose classifying knowledge work into Reactionary Work, Planning Work, Procedural Work, and Problem-Solving Work.

  • Reactionary Work: This includes tasks such as responding to emails and other communication, which can consume significant time without adding substantial value.
  • Planning Work: Strategic planning is essential, but the constant need to rework plans can result in a wasteful cycle. To break this cycle, we must focus on executing and measuring the impact of our plans.
  • Procedural Work: These tasks deal with ways of working. When done right, procedural work can help organisations create new, unique ways of operating, codifying their core competencies.
  • Problem-Solving Work: The most valuable for organisations and the most fulfilling for workers, problem-solving work is engaging and motivating. It allows us to find new and creative ways to solve problems.

Embracing the 10x productivity revolution requires us to ask: Should you hire that next person? It’s essential to consider how much time your team spends on problem-solving work that adds value to your organisation. Before making your next hire, think about how you can harness constraints to drive performance and achieve the 10x shift.

Stay tuned for the next chapter, where I will explore the productivity paradox and how embracing constraints can help you drive better performance.

Prologue: The 10X Productivity Revolution Starts Now?

In a recent contemplative period, I found myself inspired to captrure some ideas I have had for some time – as a series of insightful blog articles. Should they resonate positively with readers, I envisage them amalgamating into a cohesive, self-published volume.

Jason Nash

Revolution need not be a tumultuous upheaval that topples the old regime. Instead, every revolution involves catalyzing a movement that captivates hearts, minds, and imaginations.

We are on the cusp of an epoch in human history. Our economies labour under unprecedented debts, and social harmony is fraying due to inequality and polarization. Meanwhile, climate change hastens, and biodiversity dwindles. These looming threats cast long, ominous shadows on our shared future.

Yet, within this challenging moment lies an extraordinary opportunity for daring leaders. Imagine multiplying productivity not merely by 10%, but by 10X. By embracing innovative leadership styles, thinking paradigms, and work practices and leveraging transformative technologies like artificial intelligence, we can unlock exponential advances in efficiency, innovation, and sustainable growth.

The hour is ripe for a productivity revolution. We need 10X heroes – particularly visionary executives and business leaders – to spearhead this movement. Radical solutions are essential to address our systemic issues. The era of escalating debts, societal divide, and climate crisis won’t yield to business as usual. We must question traditional wisdom and established economic models.

This book gives executives and leadership teams the knowledge and strategies to spark a productivity revolution within their organizations. You’ll learn how to identify and eliminate constraints, cultivate a high-performance culture, harness AI, and optimize team management for efficiency.

The future depends on everyday business leaders achieving extraordinary outcomes. You hold the latent potential to be a 10X hero. With creativity, determination, and constant improvement, we can forge a brighter, sustainable future. The productivity revolution commences now. Turn the page and embark on your journey.

10x The productivity Revolution

Table of Contents

  • Prologue: The Dawn of the Productivity Revolution
  • Part 1: Understanding the Productivity Puzzle
    • Chapter 1: Understanding the 10x Productivity Revolution
    • Chapter 2: A Productivity Paradox: The Power of Constraints
    • Chapter 3: Human Obstacles to Productivity
  • Part 2: Charting the Path Forward
    • Chapter 4: The Triple Keys to Unleashing Productivity
    • Chapter 5: The Ascending Role of the Chief Productivity Officer
    • Chapter 6: The Interplay of Motivation, Psychology, and Productivity
  • Part 3: Reaping Exponential Gains
    • Chapter 7: AI, Automation, and the Future Work Landscape
    • Chapter 8: An Introduction to Prompt Engineering
    • Chapter 9: The Synergy of Human-AI Collaboration
  • Section 4: Spearheading the Revolution
    • Chapter 10: Cultivating a Culture of Productivity
    • Chapter 11: Orchestrating Teams for Optimal Productivity
    • Chapter 12: Leaping Towards the 10X Milestone

Exploring Frankenstein Products in the Age of Artificial Intelligence

Franestine Monster with circuits, male head and shoulders with bolts through the neck, lightning

What is a Frankenstein Product: Overview

I’m not the first to have used the term “Frankenstein Product” which is often used to describe a product that is a mishmash of features hastily stitched together without a clear vision or purpose. These products often result from a lack of understanding of the customer’s needs or an overzealous attempt to incorporate every possible feature into a single product. The result is a confusing product, difficult to use, and often fails to meet the customer’s needs. It also becomes bloatware difficult to QA, manage and support. For buys, you can also tell these products if suppliers are unwilling to let you have a free trial or if the deployment is measured in months instead of days or weeks!

In the Artificial Intelligence (AI) age, the risk of creating Frankenstein Products is even greater. With the vast array of AI technologies available, it’s tempting for businesses to incorporate as many features as possible into their products. However, without a clear understanding of the customer’s needs and why the customer will use your to-do list over the competition’s; and a strategic approach to product development, these products can quickly become unwieldy and ineffective. I could name some examples, but maybe that is better for people to leave in the comments.

The term “Frankenstein Product” is derived from Mary Shelley’s novel Frankenstein, in which a scientist creates a monster by stitching together parts from various bodies. Just like the monster in the novel, Frankenstein Products are often seen as abominations, lacking in coherence and functionality.

Why AI will lead to an explosion of Frankenstein Products

AI’s emergence has revolutionized product development. It enables the analysis of massive data volumes, prediction of customer behavior, task automation, and personalization of experiences. For developers, AI enhances speed, bolsters QA procedures, and aids in code refactoring. However, this acceleration could lead to an overabundance of features. Without collaboration between a product manager and a product designer skilled in UX and CX, this risk escalates.

Speed does not equate to value if quality or usefulness is missing; a principle acknowledged in Agile, where building irrelevant or unused features quickly is the most significant form of waste, moves you further from the goal of product-market fit. Hence, the emphasis should be on outcomes rather than output when creating products that customers will love.

The problem lies in the fact that AI is not a one-size-fits-all solution. Each AI technology has its own strengths and weaknesses, and not all of them will be relevant or beneficial to every product. Furthermore, the integration of AI technologies into a product requires a deep understanding of the technology and its implications. Without this understanding, businesses run the risk of creating products that are confusing, difficult to use, and fail to deliver on their promises.

Moreover, the rapid pace of AI development means that new technologies are constantly emerging. This can lead to a constant cycle of adding and removing features, resulting in a product that is constantly changing and lacks stability.

How to Avoid Frankenstein’s Monster: Product Market Fit

To avoid creating a Frankenstein Product, businesses need to focus on achieving product-market fit. This means developing a product that meets the needs of specific customer segments and creates value for them which in turn creates value for the business building them at a price that the market is willing to pay.

Achieving product-market fit requires deeply understanding the customer’s needs and desires. This can be achieved through customer interviews, surveys, and market research. By understanding the customer’s pain points, businesses can develop a product that provides a solution to these problems. To do this good product managers and product designers need to spend a minimum of 20% of their time interviewing customers. Yes, that one whole day a week? Are you spending that much time a week interested in the comments below?

Know your customer’s Jobs-to-be-done.

The final guard against creating Frankenstein Products is deeply understanding the customer’s Jobs-to-be-done (JTBD). The JTBD framework is a way of looking at customer needs not in terms of products or services, but the jobs that customers need to get done. By understanding the customer’s JTBD, businesses can develop products that solve these jobs. This can help ensure the product is relevant and valuable to the customer. Mapping your product blue ocean strategy canvas can also help you avoid the monster.

The concept of Jobs-to-be-Done (JTBD) was popularized by Clayton M. Christensen, a Harvard Business School professor, in his book “The Innovator’s Solution: Creating and Sustaining Successful Growth,” which was published in 2003. The book was co-authored with Michael E. Raynor.

The JTBD theory is a framework for understanding what causes consumers to adopt new products or services. According to Christensen, customers don’t simply buy products or services; they “hire” them to perform a job that they need to get done. This idea has influenced a wide range of innovation and product development practices.

In conclusion, while the advent of AI has opened up a world of possibilities for product development, it has also increased the risk of creating Frankenstein Products. By focusing on achieving product-market fit, understanding the customer’s JTBD, and being strategic in using AI technologies, businesses can avoid this pitfall and create valuable, relevant, and loved products. Next time I will wring about Zombie products, why they exist and what to do about them. Tip: Traditional projects have a lot to answer for… 

Why is Commercial Product Management More Important Than Ever?

The contemporary business world is being reshaped by an invisible yet relentless force – artificial intelligence (AI). As we navigate this era of rapid digital transformation, we increasingly understand that the path to future success is laden with AI-enabled technologies. This powerful wave of change is particularly noticeable in the realm of software development, where AI has made faster, cheaper, and higher-quality development a reality.

However, in this exciting new landscape, it is crucial to underscore one element of business that is becoming more critical than ever: commercial product management. Traditionally, in some start-ups and even in some scale-ups, product management has often been relegated to being an “order taker” for sales. But in a world where AI enables us to build almost anything, we must remember that the key to success is not just building features faster but building the right features.

Why CxOs Need a Commercial Product Management Function? 

1.    Building the Right Features: AI can accelerate the pace of software development, but it cannot determine what should be developed (at least not yet). That’s where commercial product management comes into play. The team’s primary role is to understand customer needs, market trends, and business objectives, translating these into a coherent and viable product strategy. It’s not just about being faster; it’s about being smarter and making data-driven decisions on which features will create the highest value for clients, embracing constraints rather than ignoring them.

2.    Avoiding Bloated Products: As software development accelerates, the risk of product bloat increases. In a rush to deliver new features and keep up with competitors, companies may lose sight of their product’s core purpose – the key jobs to be done it is supposed to do for customers. Without a robust product management function, products can become unfocused and diluted, decreasing customer value. Commercial product management prevents this by focusing on the product’s profit & loss and its purpose; ensuring new features align with it.

3.    Driving Customer Value: Successful product management is about creating value for the customer first, and in turn, value for the business. This is not achievable by merely taking orders from sales or developing features at breakneck speed. It requires a deep understanding of the customer, continuous market research, and strategic alignment with business goals. Commercial product management champions these aspects, becoming the bridge between customers, business (sales & marketing), and technology.

AI and Commercial Product Management: A Perfect Symbiosis

Commercial product management and AI are not competitors; they are synergistic forces. AI is a powerful tool that can empower product management in myriad ways. It can provide valuable insights into customer behaviour, help forecast market trends, and enhance decision-making with predictive analytics.

Without guidance from strong commercial product management functions, AI-supported development risks creating bloated Frankenstein products focused on technical capability rather than customer value. Understanding and managing the product lifecycle is key. Because although a product is never done (until its end of life). The investment envelope will change and should get smaller when the product reaches maturity, and the business maximises its investment. AI can support this by providing insights and capabilities to product management supporting data analysis and decision support.

Companies that can marry the speed and efficiency of AI-powered development with the strategic vision of commercial product management will have the edge. CEOs must invest in building strong product management functions that can navigate the AI landscape and ensure that their products remain focused, relevant, and valuable to their customers. What are the jobs to be done that your product uniquely addresses?

In this exciting era, the wisdom experienced commercial product management brings, should act as a beacon that ensures we are not just building features faster but the right features that create the most value for our customers. AI will speed up the journey, but commercial product management will ensure we are heading in the right direction. I would love to hear if you agree or disagree with this and if your product managers whether you feel you have the coating and support you need to deliver to this expectation.