Employees that Bitch: Disloyalty or An Early Warning Sign of Problems?

“Employee grumblings about products may be an early warning sign of problems.” Is one of the Product Success Principles that has not previously received a lot of attention in my blog posts and newsletters so the following are some thoughts and explanation of this idea.

This principle is similar to the mantra often heard in companies that we need to “eat our own dog food.”  Basically that companies need to use their own products.  Sometimes this is no effort at all.  The product is so good that everyone naturally flocked to it.  Other times employees need a bit of encouragement.  But, if it’s too much of a struggle to get employees to use the company’s own products, clearly that should be a warning sign that there is a problem with the product.  Unfortunately, all too often it is seen more like a sign of disloyalty or lack of commitment to the company and product.

This was illustrated in a 2010 Wall Street Journal article:

“The perils of being an iPhone user at Microsoft were on display last September. At an all- company meeting in a Seattle sports stadium, one hapless employee used his iPhone to snap photos of Microsoft Chief Executive Steve Ballmer. Mr. Ballmer snatched the iPhone out of the employee’s hands, placed it on the ground and pretended to stomp on it in front of thousands of Microsoft workers, according to people present.”

Rather then theatrics (that could silence other employees or make them hide their phones), this would have been a great opportunity for Microsoft to begin to ask “what is it about Windows phones that we can’t even convince out own employees to use them?” And, “How do we change the product so they will WANT to use it rather then feel FORCED to use it?”