04 July 2021

Season 2, Episode 24. Digital Product Failure with Jonathon Hensley

In this episode, Jonathon Hensley is joining me to have a conversation about his new book, and discuss what causes digital product failure, the root causes of failure, and how organizations internally sabotage themselves.


Jonathon is the Co-Founder & CEO of EMERGE, a digital product consulting firm that works with companies to improve operational agility and customer experience. For more than two decades, Jonathan has helped startups, Fortune 100 brands, and technology leaders transform their businesses by turning strategies into valuable digital products and services. Jonathan just released his new book, Alignment: Overcoming internal sabotage and digital product failure.



[00:16] The Root Causes of Failure 


  • What inspired Jonathon to write alignment
    • After coming across a statistic that 84% of digital transformations fail or underperform, he wanted to understand the root causes of failure. Jonathan began a multi-year journey in becoming immersed in what creates failure within organizations and products, and what are the impacts on people in those organizations.
  • The root cause of failure
    •  Not understanding your customer
    • A fundamental lack of clarity and focus in the organization to deliver on a product, and bring a promise to forward customers
    • Not knowing how to handle organizational complexity
    • Not knowing how to scale


[04:18] Failure in Leadership       


  •  Leadership is accountable to the success and failures of the organization
  • Leadership is about understanding what you need to focus on why you need to do it, and how it fits into your strategic picture
  • Leadership mistakes
    • Not having the right roles represented in the organization
    • Having the wrong people seated at the table
    • Having people at the table that don't have the disciplines in the areas that you need them to have
    • The problem of no shared understanding
    • Misunderstanding strategy



[10:11]  Internal Sabotage


  • The top three reasons Jonathon has found as to why sabotage happens from within
    • Having no shared understanding, which manifests into no shared purpose in the organization, results in operating in more of an “I mentality” versus a “We mentality”
    • Not understanding the problem you're solving, and solving it from a single point of view, versus really understanding what's the scope of the problem
    • Managing expectations. Optimism can be disconnected from realism about the challenges and the level of effort that has to be taken to really bring something to fruition



[12:24] Leadership Problems Equals Digital Product Failure


  • At the product level, the information that leadership is needing to bring forward to really drive that clarity and focus as essential information to unlocking the potential of your teams
  • The ability to make smart, accurate decisions that are in alignment with the customer, and the business is absolutely critical
  • If you don't have alignment in your team, they’ll spend more energy on dealing with the misalignment than actually on the delivery, thus, setting yourself up for failure
  • Solutions for misalignment
    • Have one sheet on your product that actually communicates the pillars of strategy
    • Put this strategy in the forefront for every single team member and external partners
    • When you create that level of transparency you innately are creating an environment of trust



[18:34] Are Organizations Actually Effective at Learning From Their Failures?


  • What is the mentality of the culture and the organization?
  • How “Failing fast, and failing forward can be dangerous
    • If the actual culture isn't focused on the learning aspect, and driving improvement, it becomes a very dangerous phrase within a culture that now is creating an acceptance for failure without any positive outcome


[27:46] Final Words  


  • What Jonathon wants readers to take away from his book
    • Understanding really what alignment is
    • Understanding alignment is not just leadership’s responsibility, but it's everybody's responsibility
    • Orient your understanding of strategy
  • Final thoughts from Jonathon
  • Connect with Jonathon and buy his book,  Alignment: Overcoming internal sabotage and digital product failure. (More links below) 


Key Quotes:


“That eventually led me to realize there's a much, much bigger story that needs to be told not just on understanding failure, but really on the characteristics for those individuals and organizations that are beating the odds, overcoming, and succeeding. And so that's what became the foundation for the book.” -   Jonathon Hensley


“There were many organizations that had every advantage and possibility to succeed and very great ideas for great products with great people. And what was happening is there is fundamentally a lack of clarity and focus in the organization to deliver on that product, and bring that promise to customers forward into the market.” - Jonathon Hensley


“Leadership is about understanding what you need to focus on why you need to do it, and how it fits into your strategic picture.” Jonathon Hensley


Connect with Jonathon

Follow Jonathon Hensley on Linkedin and Facebook

Visit his website https://www.productalignment.com/

To purchase Jonathan’s Book click here

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