Keep Telling your Story

How a release notes nightmare became a rewrite opportunity

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Cisco Release Notes circa 2009

Who’s Story?

First question: “Wait, does our product have a story?” Of course it does:

  • It has a seedy backstory where your team needed to pivot to meet the needs of your client base and made some terribly wrong choices along the way
  • It has a public story like your personal Facebook feed where you only share the highlight reel and make your product look like it emerged from Zeus’s head, fully-formed and without blemish
  • It has a fantastical futuristic story where your product revolutionizes-the-world-of-fill-in-the-blank-by-engineering-a-solution-that-bypasses … something

Labor of Love

Right now, you have a collection of dates, release numbers, and a list of features. You may have a sprinkling of “then we took the product to this show and that happened.” Put all the facts in order and then start stringing them together. What outside cause led to this feature? Who joined the team that led to this decision? Did a significant customer change the way you looked at a problem? Did a significant failure turn out to be a way forward that you didn’t imagine?

The story’s truth

Do not ask everybody if they agree with your story. That’s not what I mean.

Mythology and Truth

What did you discover? Teams tend to fall into these high-level categories when it comes to the truths we discover:

  • Stronger, faster, better
  • Our quality will outlast anything else
  • You can trust us
  • We move really fast
  • You can have it all (how ever you define “it all”)

And the release notes?

As you rewrite the story now with the lens of your authentic truth, your story inspires your employees either to build trust by double-checking themselves or move quickly without fear. Your story engages your customers in the story, so they believe and rely on your quality or trust they are getting only the best from your team. Your story builds your organization’s mythos, so the story starts to tell itself: those inside and outside the company know and believe that you’ve always chosen the road not taken or found the mystical potion that allows them to ‘have it all.’, UX designer, product manager, life-long learner, weeknight warrior, chronic over-thinker, deficit levels of attention

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