Paul Gütt & Philip Kingo

Build Better Products Faster

Discover key strategies for efficient product development, including focused team collaboration, strategic prioritization, and streamlined processes, all aimed at building better products faster in a dynamic business setting.

Talk transcript of Paul Gütt & Philip Kingo – recorded on 16 Nov 2023 Agile

Agile Lean Product management Team collaboration Prioritization Process Product strategy Continuous discovery Experimentation & testing Management

Paul Gütt, Group Product Manager, and Philip Kingo, Tech Lead at Lenus eHealth, shared their valuable insights and experiences in a talk titled “Building Better Products, Faster”. They delved into the challenges faced by their team and the innovative strategies they employed to overcome them, ensuring the development of efficient and effective products.

The Challenges

  • Broad Ownership and Open Projects. The team at Lenus eHealth grappled with very broad ownership of features on the platform. This scenario led to numerous open projects with significant potential for improvement, creating a complex landscape of features and domains to manage.
  • Strong Commercial Organization. With a robust commercial organization, they encountered the challenge of catering to a large number of stakeholders, each with their own set of expectations and requirements. This necessitated a careful balancing act of listening and assisting a diverse group of stakeholders.
  • Hypergrowth Mode. As Lenus was in a phase of rapid expansion, the team had to keep pace with the company’s growth. This hypergrowth meant accommodating new demands and integrating fresh perspectives from an increasing number of team members and customers.

The 4 Golden Rules

Their “4 Golden Rules” offer a roadmap for teams looking to enhance their productivity and efficiency in building better products faster.

  1. Blend Out the Noise. The first solution focused on eliminating distractions and concentrating on key tasks. By narrowing their focus and committing to specific, high-priority features, the team could devote their full attention and resources to what mattered most, leading to more impactful outcomes.
  2. Think Hard About What You Build Yourself. They emphasized the importance of being strategic about in-house development. Not every problem requires building a new feature from scratch. Sometimes, leveraging third-party solutions or existing tools can be more effective, saving time and reducing complexity.
  3. Slice Things Super Thin. This approach involved breaking down projects into the smallest possible components. By doing so, they could manage tasks more efficiently, ensuring that each aspect of the project received the attention it deserved without overwhelming the team.
  4. Do Not Block Each Other. The final rule underscored the importance of teamwork and collaboration. Ensuring that team members were not impeding each other’s work was crucial for maintaining a smooth workflow and high development velocity.

Blend Out the Noise - Focusing for Impact

In a high-growth company like Lenus eHealth, the challenge of handling multiple features and projects simultaneously is a familiar scenario. This is where the first of the “4 Golden Rules” by Paul Gütt and Philip Kingo, “Blend Out the Noise,” becomes pivotal.

Paul and Philip found themselves in a situation where their team was stretched thin across numerous tasks. As Philip explained, they were often working on two or three things at the same time, leading to a scenario where they were “living on a lot of fronts, but not really making a big impact on really important things for Leaners”​​. This diffusion of focus not only diluted the impact of their efforts but also slowed down the development of critical features.

Recognizing this challenge, the team at Lenus eHealth made a strategic shift. They decided to concentrate solely on one key feature at a time, effectively “blocking out the noise” of other distractions and tasks. This decision to focus allowed them to channel all their resources and attention towards the development of a single, high-priority feature. This approach was a departure from the multitasking norm prevalent in many tech companies, but it proved to be a game-changer for them.

The decision to focus on one feature at a time had multiple benefits:

  1. Enhanced Quality and Impact. By concentrating on a single task, the team could delve deeper into the feature, understanding its nuances and ensuring its high quality and relevance.
  2. Team Alignment. This focused approach helped in aligning the entire team towards a common goal, fostering a sense of unity and purpose.
  3. Efficient Use of Resources. Resources, both human and technical, were utilized more efficiently as the team wasn’t spread thin over multiple projects.
  4. Faster Delivery. With undivided attention, the team could accelerate the development process, leading to faster delivery of the feature.

Implementing this rule required not just a change in the team’s approach but also buy-in from stakeholders. Fortunately, due to the importance of the feature, they received support from the management, further validating their focused strategy.

Think Hard About What You Build Yourself - Strategic Development

Most teams have a tendency to immediately start building a solution for every problem encountered is quite prevalent. This notion is especially common in tech companies, where the solution often equates to coding a new feature. However, Paul Gütt and Philip Kingo, in their insightful talk at Lenus eHealth, introduce the second of their “4 Golden Rules”: “Think Hard About What You Build Yourself.”

This golden rule challenges the default approach in the tech industry. As Paul explains, there’s a prevalent assumption that solving a problem always involves building something new. This approach, while seemingly proactive, can lead to a cycle of increasing complexity. As more features are built, the product becomes more cumbersome to maintain, inevitably slowing down the overall development velocity​​.

Paul and Philip advocate for a more deliberate and strategic approach to development. Instead of automatically jumping to build a new feature for every problem, they suggest a thorough evaluation of the necessity and impact of each potential solution. This strategy involves assessing whether the problem truly requires an in-house built solution or if existing tools and third-party solutions can effectively address the need.

Benefits of Strategic Thinking in Development

  1. Reduced Complexity. By being selective about what to build, teams can avoid unnecessary complexity in their products.
  2. Increased Focus. Focusing on building only what is essential allows teams to allocate more resources and attention to high-impact features.
  3. Faster Delivery. With fewer features to manage, teams can accelerate the development of critical product elements.
  4. Better Resource Utilization. Strategic decision-making about development ensures optimal use of both human and technical resources.

Implementing this rule requires a shift in mindset, from a building-centric approach to a solution-centric one. It involves a careful evaluation of each problem, considering the existing solutions and the actual need for new development. This approach ensures that the team’s efforts are directed towards building features that genuinely add value to the product and the users.

Slice Things Super Thin - The Power of Incremental Development

The third of the “4 Golden Rules” presented by Paul Gütt and Philip Kingo in their talk is “Slice Things Super Thin.” This rule is particularly crucial in the context of rapid product development and effective team collaboration.

How they achieve super thin slicing is by using user story mapping – before any research is done. User Story Mapping is a technique that has become integral to the delivery process at Lenus eHealth. Paul and Philip emphasize the importance of this approach, which involves breaking down projects into the smallest viable components, or “thin slices”​​. This method allows for a clearer and more manageable understanding of the tasks at hand.

Benefits of slicing projects thinly include:

  1. Enhanced Clarity and Focus. By breaking down projects into smaller parts, teams can focus on individual aspects more effectively, ensuring that each element receives the attention it deserves.
  2. Improved Team Alignment. This approach helps align the team around a common understanding of the project’s scope and objectives, fostering better collaboration and communication.
  3. Facilitates an MVP Mindset. Adopting this methodology encourages the team to think in terms of Minimum Viable Products (MVPs), focusing on delivering value to the users in the most efficient way possible.
  4. Increases Flexibility and Adaptability. It allows the team to adapt more quickly to changes and feedback, as smaller components are easier to adjust or rework.

The implementation of this rule involves a paradigm shift in how projects are approached. Instead of tackling a large feature as a whole, the team dissects it into smaller, manageable parts. This process starts with user story mapping, usually visualized with post-its or similar tools, to create a clear picture of the entire project and its components.

At Lenus eHealth, this approach has been applied to various projects, allowing the team to navigate complex development tasks with greater ease and efficiency. The process starts with defining user journeys and breaking them down into smaller tasks, ensuring that each step in the journey is addressed effectively.

Do Not Block Each Other - Ensuring Smooth Team Collaboration

The fourth and final rule in the “4 Golden Rules” is “Do Not Block Each Other.” This principle is crucial in a large team environment where multiple members are often working on interdependent tasks.

In a large team like Lenus eHealth’s, where many individuals contribute to a single feature, the risk of blocking each other’s progress is significant. As described in the talk, working on a single feature can lead to slowdowns and frustrations if team members inadvertently obstruct each other’s work. This challenge is not just about the pace of development but also affects team morale and efficiency​​.

To navigate this challenge, Paul and Philip emphasized several strategies:

  1. Mock Programming. This technique involves the entire team, including non-engineers, in the initial stages of feature development. It ensures that everyone has a shared understanding of the feature and its technical implementation. This collective approach helps to identify potential blockages early and allows for more efficient problem-solving.
  2. Vertical Slicing. Instead of dividing tasks by layers (like backend, frontend), they advocate for vertical slicing. This method means building a feature in its entirety, in smaller, manageable parts. It ensures that each part is functional on its own and reduces dependencies that can lead to blockages.
  3. Effective Communication and Collaboration. Encouraging open communication and collaboration within the team is vital. Regular check-ins and discussions help in identifying potential hurdles and addressing them proactively.

By implementing these strategies, the team at Lenus eHealth was able to enhance their workflow significantly. This approach led to:

  • Faster and more efficient feature development.
  • Reduced frustration among team members.
  • Improved overall team productivity and morale.
  • Enhanced quality of the final product, as issues were identified and resolved swiftly.

The Broader Impact

Implementing these rules at Lenus eHealth has led to significant improvements in their product development process. The team has managed to navigate the challenges of rapid growth, complex project requirements, and the need for high-quality, impactful products. These rules have not only streamlined their development process but also fostered a culture of strategic thinking and collaboration.

The lessons from Lenus eHealth are applicable across various industries and team sizes. These rules provide a blueprint for other teams facing similar challenges, encouraging a shift in mindset from reactive to strategic, from divided to collaborative, and from broad to focused.

Find mentors who can help you with Agile

Browse mentors

Community events
Product Loop

Product Loop provides an opportunity for Product professionals and their peers to exchange ideas and experiences about Product Design, Development and Management, Business Modelling, Metrics, User Experience and all the other things that get us excited.

Join our community

Made with in Copenhagen, Denmark

Want to learn more about about good product development, then browse our product playbooks.