The Value of Cadence in Product Development

by Jamie Flinchbaugh on 12-03-20

Previously we explored the benefits of making the work more granular in product development. One thing that this enables is the ability to plan, manage, execute, and monitor the work at a higher cadence. Well, why would you want that?

First, it allows us to treat the work as something closer to one-piece flow. We want a high cadence of touchpoints because, while there are more of them, they are much shorter and less burdensome. If you only have a touchpoint once a month, then everyone better be prepared, put some planning into it, and not come without all the answers (to the questions not yet asked). Now contrast that to a daily huddle. You don’t need to prepare, because you only need to know where you stand (which you should know anyway, and if you practiced higher granularity, you know quite well where you stand). You don’t need to have all the answers, because if there’s a new question that comes up, then I’ll get you the answer at tomorrow’s huddle – no fuss! 

I highly recommend starting with daily huddles. If you find, after a period of experimentation, that you don’t need daily huddles, then you can always back off. However, it’s hard to appreciate the benefit of daily huddles until you try it. You don’t know you need them until you’ve given it a shot and then realized that the flow of the work, the conversation, the decisions, and the problems were all smoother and less dramatic. It’s also hard to appreciate how many emails can be eliminated if you have a daily huddle. Other than sending files or information that doesn’t have another system or mechanism, what can’t wait a day? Many of your most important emails likely waited a day anyway. You might have felt action-oriented because you sent the email, but that doesn’t mean it was resolved quickly. Wait for the huddle, and then boom – you have a quick conversation that likely would have been 5 emails and 3 days. 

Perhaps the greatest aggregate benefit is when you put granularity and cadence together. You not only get faster because of the reasons above, but you plan for being faster. Why? We avoid the natural “rounding up” that happens with low granularity and cadence. If you have monthly touchpoints (whether they are called reviews, or gates, or anything else), then when will the task get done? By the next meeting. And while it could get done faster, we are much less likely to plan for it to happen faster. This doesn’t mean you use your cadence as a “nagging” tool and just harass people into getting things done. If someone says it will take 5 days, then you check-in on day 5, not day 4, and not day 6. 

Cadence by itself has much less value without granularity, although it might force you to demand more granularity. Granularity without cadence will produce less value, and people may not see the point of keeping up their efforts. Put them together and the value can be profound.