In this keynote from #mtpengage Hamburg 2021, Megan Murphy, VP Product at Hotjar, shares how she communicates and enforces Hotjar’s product strategy in her day-to-day work.
Her key points include:
- People need to be inspired so that they believe in their ability to make things happen
- Feedback is important at every stage
- Keep people informed, communication is everything
- Try out new methods of communication – they can really help to get people engaged
Megan says she spends about 50% of her time at Hotjar working on internal communications.
When strategy works, she says, it drives focus, alignment, and moves us in the direction we want to go, but it’s worthless if people don’t know how to contribute. Equally if a strategy doesn’t resonate with people it might keep them moving forward but all in different directions. She cites a couple of studies from Forbes that show the most common reasons that strategy fails are unclear communication, no or insufficient communication, and a lack of understanding of what’s needed to make the strategy successful. Key to making a strategy work, she says, is inspiration or “getting people to believe in their ability to make things happen”.
When Megan started her product strategy journey at Hotjar, she had joined the company a few months previously and had already outlined a product vision statement.
She then needed a start on a strategy – but says she finds “organisation and structure very challenging”. “I would never describe myself as a particularly organised person, either personally or professionally,” she says. “I knew that to create a product strategy from the ground up I would need to tap into the wisdom of others.” She went to books like Blue Ocean Strategy by Renée Mauborgne and W. Chan Kim, Good Strategy/Bad Strategy by Richard Rumelt, and Playing to Win by Alan Lafley and Roger Martin for help.
She decided to turn Good Strategy/Bad Strategy into a Trello board for her as-yet undeveloped product strategy, its main challenges and a coherent action plan. In the talk she runs through how she set this up. “Take an honest look at the challenges around you and articulate the main ones you need to overcome in pursuit of your goal,” she says. It’s important that you not only articulate what you will do but also what you won’t do, she adds.
She then shared this structure with people across the company to get feedback. This enabled her to find out what her colleagues were expecting and what she might have missed. “It also gave me the opportunity to reset expectations so that no one would confuse a product strategy with a set of release dates,” she says.
She describes how she tracked industry signals and patterns on Trello to work out Hotjar’s most pressing business challenges. She used this as her second feedback loop to get to four succinct themes for the challenges Hotjar faced, namely that: the category is exploding, everything is done on smaller screens, there’s heightened awareness of digital privacy and security, and, with more people working remotely, smooth collaboration is now table stakes. “I can’t stress enough that this was a dialogue, not a monologue,” she says. “If we can agree on the problems we need to solve, the solutions will come much more easily.”
Then it was time to articulate policies to confront the challenges and work on an action plan. At this point Megan introduced a third feedback loop. “This feedback loop was time-intensive but absolutely worth it,” she says.
She then set up 30-minute one-on-ones with about 15 stakeholders and team mates. She says she ended up with key stakeholders right across the company not only feeling included but being included in the strategy. She was able to write up a 15-page document to detail her strategy.
She then thought about how to convey the strategy to the wider company at Hotjar and how to make it stick. She took a leaf out of the AirBNB playbook and asked her teams to construct a one-star experience for their area of the Hotjar product and then repeat that for two stars, three stars, and so on up to 11 stars. She then asked them to rate Hotjar today and invited them to imagine how they would play a starring role in bringing Hotjar’s strategy to life. It was such a successful exercise that teams at Hotjar now do this 11-star experience test as an onboarding exercise. “Hearing the team express that this exercise helped them believe in themselves felt like magic, so I knew it was time to share the product strategy.”
Megan turned her strategy document into a six-minute video to share at an all-company meeting. She says: “Hotjar is a product-led company… we don’t have a design strategy, and an engineering or a data strategy – we have a product strategy that focuses on customer problems and market challenges.”
Megan says you also need to remind people when you action your strategy, and that decisions are consistent or they will assume that your strategy is just some artefact that only lives on paper. Hotjar.
Megan finishes with some advice on how to bring your strategy to life and make it work
- Inspire your team – whether through exercises or through showing them what could be.
- Educate them – tell what to expect, why you make certain decisions through the lens of customer stories.
- Reinforce – try out new means of communication. Multi-dimensional communication will help your message land with people who learn differently.
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