Implementing Product Strategy
The most unexpected (and my favorite) byproduct of this newsletter has been the serendipitous conversations stemming from reader comments. And one recently asked me to think beyond just crafting product strategy and talk through “operationalization”. The below is our (cleaned up) email exchange, where I lay out all the ways strategy doesn’t stick in an organization.
there is no strategy (i.e. you just list out business targets or feature ideas)
there is no standard way to document or iterate on strategy
there is a strategy but it's mis-aligned across functional pillars
there is a desire to iterate on the strategy because (planned / unplanned) event
there is a strategy but it's not well documented or disseminated
there is a strategy but it’s unclear which roadmap items move the needle
there are gaps in the roadmap when compared against the strategy
the costs (people, infrastructure) of executing the strategy are unclear
there is a need to assess how an investment (or divestment) fits the strategy
a product idea needs to be pressure tested against the strategy (yes or no, ROI)
there is work underway that doesn't map to the strategy
the strategy is not producing the desired results (and in the desired timeframe)
it’s unclear how well employees / partners understand the strategy
the strategy needs to be shared beyond the product team (GTM, analysts, board)
there needs to be a retrospective on the strategy and business outcomes
a decision / trade-off needs to be revisited to ensure it was aligned strategically
multiple strategic alternatives need to be compared before picking a path
the strategy needs to be looked at from a competitor’s point of view
That’s almost ~ 20 things that could be going awry as you attempt to implement a product strategy. How do you make sense of it all?
All of these issues can be traced back to 2 key concepts:
legibility - how clearly is the strategy articulated
synchronicity - how swiftly does action follow strategy
I’m borrowing (and expanding) these concept from Kevin Kwok; he uses them to describe systems, particularly people organizations. In other words, when it comes to product strategy, how you communicate it to people and how you align people dictate whether you’ll successfully be able to implement.
With legibility, you have to utilize different mediums (docs, slides, wikis, flyers) and channels (all hands, 1:1’s, offsites, QBR’s). Repetition is key, and effective executives understand how often and through which means to repeat until the strategy is absorbed.
With synchronicity, you have to leverage operational scaffolding (OKRs, planning cycle, product roadmap) and incentive structures (compensation, recognition, scope). Buy-in is critical, and successful leaders know how to line up the organization for smooth execution.
Legibility and Synchronicity (along with Composability and Affordability) are the 4 dimensions of a coherent strategy (see visual below and link in further reading).
I’d love to hear from readers on the lessons they’ve learned trying to implement product strategy - please chime in via comments👇. And if you enjoyed this post, please consider subscribing.
further reading / references
Legibility and Synchronicity (along with Composability and Affordability) are the 4 dimensions of a coherent strategy
here is the podcast (North Star w/ David Perell) where Kevin Kwok explains the concepts of legibility and synchronicity (along with some extreme examples)
Illuminating Product Strategy provides a template for pressure testing legibility
Radical Focus demonstrates how OKRs can be a tool for achieving synchronicity
this First Round Review article lays out a “product strategy stack” which connects many dots
this post has a handy infographic on Why Does Our Strategy Keep Changing?
childish drawing / interpretation