How you shape your product culture
Choose between speed, depth and breadth, but no more than two
Your product culture is defined by your actions. Those actions are based on choices. One of the most common choices that shapes a product culture is between speed, depth and breadth. Generally you can only pick two.
Speed is about the velocity of shipping the next thing. Fast product teams are quick to add new features, often just the happy paths, fixing issues or incorporating learnings and stakeholder requirements in their plans.
Depth is about covering the edge cases of a specific problem, and building a very complete product. Your team thinks through the tiny details of the experience and doesn’t let anything slip.
Breadth is about covering more use cases across a problem space, generally aiming towards aggregating solutions. Teams that invest in breadth have wide scopes, with a product that seemingly “does a lot of things”.
Probably you would love to cover all of them, but for a long time you can only choose a combination of two. These yield your culture:
Speed + Depth = your team will ship quickly within a single solution, with deep knowledge, covering the edge cases and magic details, outpacing those operate in that specific part of the problem space. Often these teams lose on the edges of the problem space, having a tough time jumping through the chasm. You better chose a large audience for that specific problem.
Speed + Breadth = your team will quickly expand the use cases of its product, covering quite a few happy paths within the problem space of your customer, but easily breaking on custom needs or power users. It’s a great culture to grow addressable market, but your product will rarely feel special.
Depth + Breadth = your team will have long build cycles, ideally with a profitable light in the end of the tunnel. You’ll generally see this with experienced teams that are aiming to tackle a complex problem, within a market with incumbents that have a wide range of market-fit features, or where the market requires a lot of trust in a complete solution. This is the toughest culture in a fast startup pace.
Whatever option you choose early on, it will shape your product culture for many quarters to come. Think wisely.