Aligning Your Product Strategy With Your Company’s Overall Strategy
17 June, 2021
A lot of times, in product, when there’s a lack of context from the organization, it can be challenging to come up with a product strategy. You either need to drive the overall company strategy through the product that you’re managing, or you need to set your own course without the context from the organization.
What you struggle with then is a prioritization of your own work. How do you connect what you’re doing with the company strategy as a whole? You’re kind of always stuck to calculated business cases with many different things to sort through without really having a firm idea of how they all connect to one another. People will be asking the Product Manager to provide a larger vision to contextualize the area that they’re working on, and it’s extremely difficult to come up with a vision for the area that you’re responsible for if the company is not providing that larger picture. The product should be contributing to the higher-level company strategy. If these things are not made explicit, it can be a pretty intense struggle to come up with it on your own.
One approach is to review what you’re actually working on and what metrics you’re striving for, taking in this portfolio of topics that you’re driving and trying to understand the bigger picture. What is actually the overarching theme uniting many of these initiatives? You’re usually doing many things, but the number of metrics that you’re impacting is limited. That means that there are usually only two or three strategic hypotheses that you’re actually pursuing. Aggregating your work to the level of these hypotheses that you’re working on already starts to frame that picture of what it is that you’re working toward. You start with what you know, what you’re working on, and then you progress toward what you should know, answering the “Why?” behind what you’re doing and identifying the metric that you’re trying to drive.
Try to bundle those, and if multiple things start to pay in on the same metrics, try to understand the underlying reason and strategy that you’re pursuing there. Highlighting that and then going into your discussions with others regarding the goals of the effort will open up this dialogue that I think is so important to aligning on these topics.
Finding these themes takes the discipline to sit down and to actually create that picture. When you look at what you’re working on and why you’re doing it, it kind of surfaces. It becomes self-evident. You’re usually solving a specific customer problem attached to a single, individual initiative. What is the underlying strategy actually looking at these problems specifically and not any of the other problems to be solved? You usually have lots of customer problems that you could be working on. Why have you chosen these ones?
- Deliberate thinking allows you to understand how you’re really contributing to the company strategy. You’re being explicit about what things that you’re working toward, and, equally as important, what you’re not working toward. Within that framework, you can also usually integrate the ideas that people have, things that you could be working on but that you are not working on.
- I learned to let my team move the needle in order to determine where our work should be going in terms of unexplored areas of interest. Listen intently to what your people communicate as being important outside of your current scope. If we were not doing this, what metric would we be driving? Is this aligned with one of my existing strategies, or is this something completely new that this person is proposing that we investigate? Then, it’s usually a lot easier to come to a conclusion on whether the area is worth your time as a team.
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