Entrepreneurs, especially in the small-business domain, are full of ideas for new products and services. They often have some notion of the end-product in their imagination. But when it comes to realizing that fantastic idea, they get overwhelmed. Where to start? How to create this product or service? How to control the process? Many a time they just postpone or even disregard that possibly brilliant new idea for their business. At best, they will consider hiring some professionals to help them out.
Well, let me show you a simple DIY best practice approach to turn your new idea into your new product or service.
The puzzle approach
It’s the top-down decomposition of the work to be done and creating the required deliverables. Look at it as a puzzle. In your mind, you have the big picture of your product or service. That’s the completed or almost completed puzzle, only, you don’t know yet what all the different pieces of this big puzzle look like.
You break down the big picture into smaller pieces that seem realistic to you. It’s your product or service so you know better than anyone else which possible realistic smaller pieces you could think of.
You repeat this decomposition a few times until you have the smallest useful pieces of the puzzle. When you have these smallest pieces, you will be able to design a feasible plan to acquire them. And once you have these smallest pieces delivered, you fit them together to build up the big picture being your product or service. Now let’s go look at how that process works.
The decomposition process
Let’s go through the decomposition process with a simplified yet realistic example. But first I will explain the framework for the process. The framework consists of 4 main steps.
The first step is defining the Project, this is the Product or Service we want to produce, the big picture. We do that using Verb & Noun. The example will make this clear, so bear with me for a moment.
The second step is breaking down the big picture into Major Components. Here we only use a Noun.
The third step is breaking down each of the Major Components into Intermediate or even Final Components. Here again, we only use a Noun. Final Components are the smallest useful pieces of the puzzle.
The fourth step is defining Work Packages or Tasks to produce the Final Components. Here we use Verb & Noun.
A simplified example
Now let’s apply this to a simplified example to grasp the concept. The example project is typical for a small-business product or service.
I decided to create a training program in the weight loss niche. You will see that this example is so generic that you can even use it as a blueprint to create your own training program in any niche. So be my guest and take advantage of this opportunity.
I name the Project ‘Create Training Program XYZ’. You see Verb & Noun, in this case also with adjectives. I say XYZ because I don’t have a proper name for the program yet. I know in what niche, but I don’t know the topics yet that my program will cover. I plan to decide on a proper name once I know my topics.
As you gather from this example, I really don’t have to know so much about my topics. I make this part of my project to find out what are the best topics for the marketplace because I want to put a product out there that is in demand. No use to bring a product if nobody wants it, right?! Although, you never know!
With that in mind, I break down ‘Training Program XYZ’ in Major Components. In this case, I decide on Topics, Design, Notebooks, Instructor, Test Run, and Presentation. You see all Nouns. For now, this choice looks realistic to me.
I want to find the best topics in demand;
I must design my training program using a proper name;
I want to use notebooks in my training;
I will need competent instructors;
I want to do a test run before I go to market;
and I want to present my training program in the marketplace.
Of course, this is my personal choice of Major Components and your choice might be different. Just do what works for you. There is no right or wrong here. As long as it is useful to reach your goal.
In this step, I further break down each Major Component in its next smaller pieces. We have 2 outcome possibilities here. The next smaller pieces could be just Intermediate Components that must be decomposed further. Or they already are Final Components. In any case, you decompose until you are satisfied that the smallest components you have finally defined, are useful and good enough for you.
For my ‘Training Program XYZ’ I will only decompose the Major Component ‘Topics’ to illustrate this.
I decided to find my topics by interviewing the market;
I also decided to gather material about topics typical for my niche;
and I decided to draft a report about my findings.
That’s just my personal choice, and here again, your choice can be different. I decompose ‘Topics’ into ‘Interviews’, ‘Material’ and ‘Report’. Again, all Nouns. And of course, you can use adjectives here too.
For my purpose, I define ‘Interviews’ as an Intermediate Component, and ‘Material’ and ‘Report’ as Final Components which I underlined as such. This means I must further decompose ‘Interviews’ into Final Components.
Let me first explain the conformity and difference between Final Components and Work Packages. This can be a little confusing, so pay good attention or else you will miss the point.
A Work Package shows how to acquire a Final Component so therefore it is necessary to first define the Final Components and define them with a Noun. In most cases, this is directly done in the first decomposition attempt in the third step of the decomposition process. If the first decomposition attempt in the third step delivers an Intermediate Component, then you repeat the third step until you only end up with Final Components. In your documentation, you can add a new third step column for every extra third step decomposition that you need.
The goal is to get your Final Components in the third decomposition step. This third step can be a repetitive activity. I know this sounds complicated but once you grasp it, it will be no problem. The upside is, that in practice, for our kind of small-business products and services, most of the time only one extra third step is necessary. And because of that, you can directly transform your Final Components into Work Packages in the fourth step by adding a Verb to the Final Component, which is defined by a Noun. I do that by underlining the name of the Final Component in the fourth step, the Work Package. So, I skip showing the decomposition of the Intermediate Component in Final Components in the third step.
Now let’s see how that works out for my Intermediate Component ‘Interviews’.
I decompose the Intermediate Component ‘Interviews’ in Final Components and directly transform them into Work Packages by adding adequate Verbs. The Final Components are identified by the underlined Nouns in the Work Package name. I end up with:
• Select Interviewees
• Draft Questionnaire
• Schedule Interviews
• Take Interviews-T
• and Report Findings
‘Material’ and ‘Report’ were already defined as Final Components in the first round of the third step, so I only have to add Verbs in the fourth step. I decide to go for:
• Gather Material
• and Draft Report
Now I have my Major Component ‘Topics’ decomposed in the smallest components that suit me. I repeat again, this is my choice and your choice may be different.
There you go, I have defined my Work Packages or Tasks that have to be done to acquire the smallest pieces of the ‘Topics’ puzzle. My final job now is to write out the action steps in my Work Packages or Tasks. These are the actions that must be taken or done to acquire each particular Final Component. The right choice of Verbs will be of great help here.
When I have done this exercise for every Major Component, I then have all the smallest pieces of the big picture, my Training Program XYZ. After acquiring these smallest pieces, I then can work backward and build up my Training Program XYZ, by assembling Final Components into Intermediate Components that can then be assembled into Major Components. Finally, we assemble these Major Components into the final product.
Let me remind you again that there is no right or wrong in doing this decomposition exercise. It’s YOUR product or service that YOU have in mind, so you decompose as broad or as deep at your convenience. But if you are planning to outsource any of the Work Packages or Tasks, I strongly advise you to go for the smallest possible components. That will give you a greater assurance that you get the fitting piece of the puzzle, and it will give you more control so you can, if necessary, intervene as soon as possible in the production process.
Now that we went through all the decomposition steps for a rather realistic product, you can use this decomposition as a blueprint for your own similar product or service. Just make your own choices of Major, Intermediate and Final Components to give it your own feel and touch.
You can use this puzzle approach to turn any of your brilliant business ideas into your own profitable products or services. Don’t overthink it, you can do this. Remember, there is no right or wrong here, just do what works for you.
PS: If you want to know how to successfully develop and bring a digital product to the online marketplace, then check out this totally free webinar.
Be You, Take Charge, Inspire Others
John A. Williams
This is a guest post from John A. Williams, if you would like to be considered for a guest post please contact me.