April 26, 2021


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Summary

If you lack direction from your SMT, that's on you. This is your opportunity to create what they don't give.

It is more common than you might think that companies, especially small to mid-sized companies, don't have strategic goals, let alone a company strategy.

While this creates some of your current issues, such as lack of direction, lack of alignment, etc., it also creates an opportunity for you as a senior product leader to step up and bridge the gap.

This might sound daunting, but remember what makes for a good strategy. More likely than not you have created a product strategy in the past.

The building blocks of a product strategy have lots of similarities with this of a company strategy.

In this episode, I'm sharing three high-level steps for creating a company/portfolio strategy without backlash.


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Full Transcript

- "If you are lacking direction from the management team or if the management team is lacking a company strategy and therefore you are all lacking alignment on what actually needs to be done and what the right product portfolio is, that's on you. As in the opportunity is on you. This is actually something that could be really, really fantastic. 

First of all, let's imagine that nothing changes, right? And you're continuing to go forward and there is no company strategy, there is no direction from the management team which usually means that there is a lack of alignment within the management team. How are you supposed to create a suitable portfolio strategy or product strategy that helps the company realise its vision and deliver on its mission? Who knows, right? So why not become proactive? So my notation to you is actually to take the step and come up with a portfolio strategy or product strategy that can at least inform the company's strategy depending on your context, you might even go so far as to use these three steps to co-create the company's strategy with members of the management's team. 


So I would like to share with you three high-level steps that allow you to create a product/portfolio strategy for your organisation without backlash, right? 

That is a concern that some of my coaching clients have when we worked through this that it is not in place to create this because they are only the highest-ranking product professional in the organisation, they're not part of the management team. Yet if you think about what's required to come up with a company strategy and what the content is of a company strategy compared to a product or portfolio strategy, there are a lot of similarities, a lot of similarities, right? So you're actually in a uniquely qualified position to help the organisation as a whole take the first step out of this limbo that it is currently in, right? So imagine the opposite now, you have at least something that creates some conversation around where the company should go or how the company should conduct itself, what it should do in order to create the future that is set out to create in its company vision, okay?

 So, what are those three steps? Step number one, you ought to signpost your intent, right? It's no good if you see that there is a need for that you walk off and do something in isolation and come back and everybody's surprised and perhaps rubbed the wrong way because you did something that they feel like they should have been doing for a while. And rather it would be better to actually have the conversation with them and say, hey, you know, maybe you got asked to actually provide a portfolio strategy or a product strategy and you've fed back already and said it's really difficult if we don't actually know what the company's strategy is, it's really difficult if we don't know what the company's strategic goals are. 


Okay, so why not actually go ahead and come up with something that would fit the company as a whole and serves as the portfolio strategy. 

So signpost that with the relevant parties in the management team and the people in your direct or very close, in your vicinity, to ensure that there are no surprises and there's already a bit of an input of some things that are important to them, right? So if you think about what you're about to create as a product, how would you approach that, right? You would work out what the target audiences' needs are, who's the target audience of a portfolio strategy, and so on and so forth, right? And given your experience, you can figure out the rest, but treat this like a product and there is a very clear need for it. There are some target audiences that you need to be aware of and how you leverage those target audiences is also important for step two. 

Step two is all about canvassing the organisation and ensuring that you have some involvement from the people who are first of all, directly communicating with users and customers, so the obvious suspects here would be customer services and sales. But you might want to talk to others, right? There might be some information and involvement with finance because it might relate to funding and promises that were made in terms of growth and so on and so forth. It might involve also the input of course from parts of your organisation, engineering to help actually create whatever is in there and the specific capability, requirements and where the company currently is, et cetera, et cetera. 

So you want to canvas all of the organisation, have those conversations, the positive side effect of that is that whatever you create will already have the buy-in of those people as well because they were involved in the process of creating this, right? And you need to tune in and work out what the level of involvement is because you of course, want to create something at a reasonable pace and avoid that it gets struck down in the details. The point here is that you're ultimately creating the first version of this overarching strategy and whether that becomes the company's strategy or whether it becomes the portfolio strategy, you need to work that out for your particular context but the key point of step two is that you are canvassing and collaborating with the key parts of the organisation so that it comes up with something that is not just on your own thing but is already bought into by the key stakeholders of this overarching strategy, just portfolio strategy or company strategy. 

Now step three is particularly crucial but before we get to that, if this sounds like something that might be useful for you this is the kind of thing that we're covering on my monthly program with senior product leaders, and this very thing is actually covered in a more in-depth in a this month's monthly training video where we pick up real issues, real challenges for our senior product leaders. And I'm creating a monthly training video specifically for that. So if that sounds like you might check that out go to productleadership.eu that's productleadership.eu. Have a look maybe there's a spot open to join the program, right. Back to point number three.

 

Point number three is potentially the hardest part because you actually need to come up with the initial strategy proposal. 

So you need to write down all the things and again, if you've created a product strategy before, given where you are in your expertise it's more likely that you have done that, right? So this is where you would want to roll out all the key components of a good product strategy/portfolio strategy, what is your overarching vision that we're looking to create, the target audiences that we're looking to address, their core needs, you can use the jobs to be done framework is my favorite. All right, so jobs to be done, gains, pains of the target audience. Work out also what the competitive landscape looks like, work out what our capability landscape looks like. What are our strengths? What do we need to do put a little bit of SWAT analysis in there as well, and then fairly swiftly roll into the key strategies that are required in order to realise that. 

And again, this might be mostly from a product point of view depending on what you're signposting and canvasing turned out to, or it might already go into more or include more aspects from a company perspective as well to input also what is required from other departments, other groups in the organisation. And remember, of course, that a strategy is a set of plans and they need to update based on what we learn in the execution of those plans, right? This is not like old school traditional companies strategies where they set something out and then basically followed the plan even though they realised actually that doesn't really work all so well, right? So, you're creating something as a memorandum of a current understanding, a snapshot in time of how it is being done. And then you go back to point number two, circle back with the people that you worked with in the canvassing and the collaboration there, get some feedback, improve your proposal, your strategy proposal based on that. And then ultimately back to the people that you spoke to in the original signposting and offer the first version. And again, this is the first version, right? 

So remember the come from place, come from place was an absolute absence of something like this. So what is likely to happen is that the process of doing what you're doing will surface a lot of discussions and conversations and there might also be some emotions coming up there that it needs to help navigate uncertainties and doubts and worries and fears, but hopefully through the work that you have done in there, you have been able to actually also create some enormous excitement for the opportunity that your organisation has at its disposal if it was to focus more and you need a strategy in order to be able to focus. 

So if that sounds like something that was useful for you then you might also enjoy some of these other videos that should be popping up right here. So why don't you just click there and watch the next one. 

Thank you very much and see you there. Bye."


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About the author 

Georg Fasching

A leadership team development specialist, International Coach Federation - Professional Certified Coach, with global product management experience since 2000, employing Agile & Lean since 2010, Georg Fasching guides leadership teams to delighting their clients, fulfil their people, and improve their prosperity.

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