As mentioned last week, I’m a big fan of using flexible structures to define Product Strategy. One of the core ideas is the modular relationship between:
- The high-level Product Strategy Patterns and
- The individual Product Strategy components shaping a pattern in a specific context.
(I recently heard about Rob Hayes’s talk on “Atomic Strategy” – Kudos to him for giving that structure a memorable name).
Since nobody can predict the success of a Strategy upfront anyway, there are only two practices worth focusing on instead:
Use the “right” Strategy Components to describe the Patterns in your context.
Depending on the type of your company culture, product maturity, and business model, some components are more useful than others.
Maybe you work in a smaller company where your Company Vision is already very product-centered–and you don’t need to go through the tick-box exercise of having another Product Vision.
Or your product’s distribution is pre-defined by the company’s focus on being sales-led.
Or the b2c nature of your product requires multiple user segments instead of differentiating between users, buyers, and champions in b2b Product Strategy.
Creating coherence between components by understanding the consequences of choice.
You can easily reduce the effectiveness of one Strategy Component by almost sabotaging it through another component’s choice (no matter the Strategy Pattern).
Let’s say you’re a company with a strong offline retail presence, and you choose a notoriously offline user segment for your strategy. In addition, you choose to serve the job of “Feel Safe about non-money Asset Value” for them through the value proposition of a “Watch Collection Evaluation.”
But then you prioritize social media and YouTube Ads for the distribution of your value proposition. You render the previous strategy choices ineffective compared to picking a distribution channel that matches your audience choices.
Instead, you should focus on a distribution channel that leverages the existing strengths AND aligns with the chosen audiences, like an In-Store Sales-assisted Evaluation.
HOW TO PUT THIS THEORY INTO PRACTICE
- Check the components of your current strategy articulation for gaps and unnecessary fluff: What choices are the result of the template/framework you used, and what choices might be missing to improve the usefulness of your strategy?
- Consider Brian Balfour’s Four Fits concept to check the coherence (or fit) among your Product Strategy choices.
- Test your strategy by playing it back to close team members first to receive feedback on what might be missing to form coherence.
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Thank you for Practicing Product,
Content I found Practical This Week
How Linear Builds Product
Once we have the strategy in mind, we then define a high-level roadmap for the next half of the year based on that. The strategy, for example, might be “focusing on large company needs.” We don’t have complicated ways to rank or vote on projects. Instead, we believe that if the leadership team and the whole company spend time with customers and use the product regularly, the needs and opportunities become more apparent. Then it’s just a matter of sequencing and scoping.
Understanding Michael Porter, by Joan Magretta
Avoid striving to be the best, which pits you against others in a zero-sum battle for the same customers and profits. This is a mistake, encouraged by vivid metaphors from war and sports. Competing to be the best leads to a) convergence on the same commodified offerings; eroded profits due to continuous one-upmanship; reduced choice for customers; and stifled innovation. Better metaphor: competing on unique value is like the performing arts; there are many good singers and actors, each distinctive, and they have their own audience.
What the heck is strategy work?
Because the framework role is charged with creating conditions for a shared mental model space across the leadership team, it is naturally conservative. When wearing this hat, I want to ensure that there is a stable foundation of framings and lenses, neatly polished, accessible to all, easy to grasp, like tools in a toolbox. The silly sensing role keeps constantly messing with this toolbox, questioning whether the screwdriver is actually a butterfly … and what if this wasn’t a toolbox, but rather … oh, I don’t know, a sunset?