planning for the “happy path”

In deep thoughts, learning, product management by Jay Clouse

In product development, you often build a solution with a specific process and set of steps in mind. The user does X, Y, and Z, and that leads to outcome A.

When that process is followed as expected and nothing goes wrong, it’s called the “happy path.” Usually, the team plans for the happy path first.

But the more complex the product is, and the more steps involved where something may go wrong, the less likely the user actually experiences the happy path.

Where teams get into trouble is when they do not properly plan for those failures or issues. When the user diverges from the happy path, what happens? How do we return the user to the happy path and get to the same ultimate outcome?

I tend to plan my own life and days according to a happy path. As long as I act according to my calendar and follow my deadlines, I reach the conclusion I intended for.

But there are lots of things that raise exception and throw you off the happy path. Getting sick throws you off the happy path, failing to deliver on a deadline throws you off the happy path, a fire with your work throws you off the happy path…

Where we get into trouble is when we do not properly plan for those failures or issues. When we get thrown off of the happy path, what happens? Do we have the backup plans or even coping mechanisms to return ourselves to the happy path and get to the same ultimate outcome?


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