> We've had 15 demos this week. Customers are interested, but most of the big ones say we're missing an integration with their accounting system.
> OK. Why hasn't this come up sooner?
> Dan was sick so we didn't have the sync meeting. The next one is in 2 weeks. I wrote it down but we never got to it.
It's always surprising. The small fragments you hear around the coffee machine or lunch table. In our day-to-day, not everyone speaks up, and many are stuck in Stockholm-syndrome scenarios. Suffering in silence through a poor quality product or workflow. There's nothing nefarious at play here, it just… never comes up.
In an ideal world things wouldn't be this way. You'd hear clear and concise feedback from the right people at the right time. When the time comes, they'll bring up (properly weighted) issues - whether it's been around for 5 minutes, 5 months, or 5 years.
This is not the world we live in.
To be clear. I don't recommend a Neeson-esque style interrogation held at the lunchroom table. However. If you have a genuine interest in the product, tune in to what people talk about. Actually listen. Ask questions. Figure out what they really mean.
A company is a strange thing; different groups, hierarchies, leaders, new recruits, old-dogs, motivated, disillusioned. A smart company still sets up up their communications process logically, but this does not mean you should no longer keep your ear to the ground.
Keep connected to the users, the customers, your team, and - of course - reality. Building a great process, rolling out smart new tech for customers, or writing a script to automate a repetitive task. These improvements accumulate. Over many iterations, you'll find that you'll need less staff, the ones you have are happier and more effective, and the product is more rounded.