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How to Guarantee Product Failure

by Roger Cauvin  |  
August 3, 2004

Understanding and documenting market requirements are among the most important tasks that a product manager performs.

Unfortunately, many product managers do not perform the tasks well, causing the following problems:

  • A development staff that doesn't know what to build

  • Products that don't solve real problems in the marketplace

  • Product designs that lack creativity and innovation

If you want your company's products to fail for these reasons, there are a number of guidelines to keep in mind. These are the top five mistakes that product managers can make to ensure their products fail.

Mistake 1. Focus on the how instead of the what

To constrain your product designers and developers so that they cannot devise innovative solutions to prospective customers' problems, specify the how instead of the what in requirements documents.

If you specify how to solve a problem, instead of what a product must do to solve a problem, then you're doing design, not requirements.

For example, if your requirements document tells the developers of a software application what programming language they must use, you (a) constrain them in delivering the best solution in the least amount of time and (b) fail to describe the real requirement, the underlying reason that using a particular programming language might be advisable.

Mistake 2. Don't ask ‘why?'

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Roger L. Cauvin is founder and principal consultant of Cauvin, Inc. ( Reach him via or his product management blog (

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