In this ProductTank Wellington talk, Andrew Tokeley, Product Leadership Coach, explains why strategy is a big part of trying to help product managers connect the dots and prove the value of what they’re working on and why many can struggle with lack of strategy.
Watch the video to see his talk in full or read on for an overview of his key points:
- The problem with product people is that they very rarely know their true value
- But strategy is hard – it’s not just the things you’re going to do or are doing
- It’s the job of the product manager to clarify what the strategy is as you risk building something that doesn’t align with it
- Strategy is the meat of the sandwich between goals and actions: Goals, Opportunities, Hypotheses, Actions
The problem with product people
One of the problems product people at all levels encounter is that no one knows their value.
This is why strategy matters to product people, and why it is important to establish the value of a product leader, whether they are a product manager, Chief Product Officer, Product Owner, or something else.
So what is the value of a product leader?
The answer to this, Andrew explains, is to maximize the ROI from the efforts and output of the product teams they work with. In order to do this effectively, you need a strategy because strategy at its fundamental level is an articulation of what a company finds valuable and why.
But strategy is hard
Many teams may find themselves in a situation where defining a strategy seems like just throwing out good ideas. However, if you can’t critique it and can’t balance one thing against another, there is no strategy.
What strategy is not?….
So what’s your strategy? Many might think that strategy is about the things you’re doing. Doing some of the things on your roadmap is not a strategy. Neither is setting goals and then doing some things on your roadmap to meet those goals.
This is your strategy
Coming up with your strategy involves the following steps:
- Goals: Prioritized, measurable and specific set of goals that you want to achieve in a given time frame.
- Opportunities: Describe the context you operate in, the biggest opportunities/ obstacles that stood in your way
- Hypotheses: The hypotheses you are committed to pursuing to address each obstacle or opportunity
- Actions: The actionable steps you are going to take for each hypothesis
- Strategic Roadmap: High level, visual articulation of your strategy and progress towards goals (outcome/impact) and actions (output)
Strategy is, therefore, a condensed expression of each strategic component that is easy to share and understand across your entire business.
How does this relate to product?
Many product managers may wish that the business would tell them the strategy. However, it’s the job of the product manager to clarify what the strategy is as you risk building something that doesn’t align with it.
To uncover what the strategy is, you can use the following – PBSO – framework:
- Problem: What underlying problem/opportunity exists?
- Beneficiary: Who benefits from solving this problem?
- Scope: What is the scope of the solution you are considering towards solving this problem?
- Outcome: What will you measure to evaluate how well the solution solved the problem?
Strategy only matters if it contains clear calls to action. Delivery aligns with strategic actions. Outcomes are defined ahead of time and regularly reported on to measure impact. Stories are told and retold to map between product outcomes and strategic goals.
Roadmaps: a visualization of your strategy
Roadmaps are one of the tools you can use to visualize the impact you’re having as a product manager. A three-month rolling roadmap can allow you to stream work by strategic goals. PBSO stories can be aligned to strategic goals. By being committed to release dates, you can continue to measure impacts of previous releases and benchmark measures to be improved future releases.
The key takeaways from this talk are that strategy is the meat of the sandwich between goals and actions: Goals, Opportunities, Hypotheses, Actions. The power of strategy is in its retelling. It should be hard to create and easy to explain. Also, product leaders must map the incremental impacts of their work to higher-level strategic goals.
More on product strategy
If you like this talk you might also like:
- Watch: Demystifying Product Strategy by Amy Zima
- Listen: How to create a product strategy – Nacho Bassino
- Read: Product strategy for beginners: Part 1 and Product strategy for beginners: Part 2