Product strategy, easier said than done
Let's start with the pain: Product strategy is what everyone in a product organization is longing for as a high-level direction to orient themselves.
Why it matters
- Teams need a strategy to have clarity about direction
- Product leaderships needs strategy to align with company strategy
- Strategy is needed to intentionally say "yes" and "no", to differentiate promising initiatives and distractions
Questions to answer
Here are my takes on some frequent questions about the product strategy:
- Who owns the product strategy? The highest formal product person owns the strategy, that means that they are responsible for starting the process and revise it regularly and involve stakeholders to get a big buy-in
- What makes a strategy actionable? Only a strategy with big buy-in and frequent updates is actionable. The less people are involved and the less often the strategy is updated and talked about in the product organization, the more likely it's not a strategy but wishful thinking, caught in 100+ Powerpoint slides that will be forgotten in a couple of days
- Which elements should a strategy have? It should have marker, options and work and differentiate clearly between them. Markers are long-lasting fixed values and goals (3-5 years), options are multiple hypotheses that need to be tested to get to the markers (1 year) and work is what you do to test the options. It helps massively, to be clear on which level you are discussing and point out to people that options need to stay stable and focus should be on options and work
- What is a product strategy not? It is not a one-off workshop done by management, it is not a roadmap that lists what will be done one after another with great detail
- What is a product strategy? It is direction, a possible future that is attractive
- What is so difficult about creating a product strategy? You need a high confidence to select the right long-term goals, but you will never have enough data to be really certain, so you have to take calculated risks
- Why can't we just copy and paste product strategy from Marty Cagan's or Roman Pichler's books? Books have to assume that you start from scratch and the importance of a product strategy is widely accepted, but in reality your product strategy starts with a complicated established organization where "product" may not even be a company priority
- How can I make the product strategy a success story? Block yourself at least 1 hour every week to work on the strategy. Ask all product managers to devot 30 mins per week working on it as well. This can be a QA format to help them understand the strategy better or find open questions and edge cases, or they can dive deeper by doing research and confirming or contradicting data points. They will take ownership and help you execute on the strategy.
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