The Launch and Learn Mind Set

One of the first things you do when you launch a new product is to celebrate the big day. But let me share an unpopular opinion—maybe it’s not the right time to be celebrating.

Launching a product is a testament to the hard work the entire team (Versett and client) has put in over the past few months, possibly even years. It feels good to finally have something in the market, and we want to acknowledge that.

But taking a step back, what does launching a product truly mean? It means you created and published a thing. Creating anything is hard; you should be proud. But is it any good? You don’t know yet. Of course, there was the user research and testing along the way. Is that enough? In my view, no. All that’s done is the hard work required to finally show what we got right and wrong.

Unfortunately, when it comes to products, you have little control over what quality truly is. This is because your customers measure quality and value in a product.

I have a theory that many process problems come from the celebratory launch mindset:

  1. The struggle to finding the ‘ideal’ process for building products
  2. The tendency to treat post-launch as a shift to “maintenance” mode, not a time for new work
  3. Research and testing not taking priority in the project workflow

These challenges stem from a desire to continually do better work, but generally also usually new, shiny work. Launching the new feature. Moving onto the next big challenge.

This shift requires an evolution of our mindset. Part of this is shedding the celebratory nature of launches. You should still acknowledge all of the work and celebrate along the way, but let’s not make it our landmark event.

But if the launch is not the objective, what is? Learning. We call this line of thinking, “Launch and Learn.”

One thing that is clear, but often missed, is that you can’t iterate and improve your product until it’s live. You can change it, but without accurate data. Even with user testing, it’s still not authentic data from the customer. Lab behaviour is not the same as live behaviour. It’s always better to fail and to learn from a live experience.

The good news is you’ve done the work required to be proven wrong. The work required to get something out there—the work required to learn how real customers interact with our product.

So where do you go from here? I think it means we shouldn’t structure projects to end at launch. Launch is just another day for us. The post-launch period is a product’s golden age. It’s the time for growing. And learning. And creating more value for customers. This period is not a time for maintenance mode.

By shifting our mindset, we can move:

From Test Results to Live Data.

From Project Management to Product Management.

From Planning to Growing.

From Short Term, Fixed projects to Long Term, Flexible projects.