Product Practice #255: How to avoid ‘Product Strategy by Post-it’


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‘Product Strategy by Post-it‘ is a symptom of over-relying on fixed-structure templates and Canvases.

My valued peer John Cutler recently suggested that most frameworks should feature a warning label like this:

“This framework is synthetic. It was designed to be “foolproof” and adoptable under less-than-ideal conditions. Under different conditions, your team could learn much faster, so don’t infantilize your team. Doing this framework “well” is not a prerequisite for doing well.”

While I’m far from founding the “association of people warning about frameworks,” I think that many templates and canvases suggest linearity and oversimplified perspective on practices like Strategy.

But of course, this is more about how an artifact is used rather than the artifact itself.

When teams start with fill-in-the-blank templates to form their Strategy, it‘s tempting to work through a given artifact in a one-off “Product Strategy Workshop.” And while you can‘t (and shouldn‘t) over-analyze every aspect of your Product Strategy before getting started, believing something accurate just because it exists as a post-it note is equally dangerous.

One example is the decision of what Strategic Audience(s) to focus on. This shouldn’t just be a debate of opinions when comparing notes after a “brainstorming.” This should be an evidence-informed choice based on insights that are probably gathered outside meetings.

While the sheer act of breaking down all the different audience segments you could go after can quickly happen in a workshop, gathering the insights to decide between them probably doesn’t. You want to utilize your Product Vision and Strategic Metrics to pick your decision-making criteria together and then engage in ballpark-like quantification of the segments.

This is what evidence-informed decisions in Strategy are about. Not getting to 100% certainty, but also not just acting on gut feeling and anecdotes alone.

The synthesis of Product Strategy Patterns should help you prioritize and make decisions. And templates and canvases can beneficialful for this act of synthesis and communication. But the more the contents on them are an uninformed guess, the less supportive they will be when translating your Strategy into OKRs and Discovery priorities.

Speak soon,


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