Strategy is only as good as its ability to enable your product people to make smart decisions. It must evolve to remain fit for purpose. For those of you who want to make sure your product strategy serves your people, a collaborative approach helps you recognise and prioritise the most crucial gaps to work on.
The last post shares the product strategy health check template. Here’s one way you could work with it to align your POs, PMs, CPOs or whoever is in your product org chart. Co-creation is key to a shared commitment and conviction. Start with asking your product people to identify areas where they want more context. You can enable them a little better, each time, even if the official strategy is still in progress.
Treat it like a Kata, returning monthly or quarterly (but no less frequently) to prioritise the next biggest gap you want to close. A strategy isn’t grown in one night, so this is something that you can make more robust over time, piece by piece. Each time, gather product people to add what they know, then dot vote on which field they most need more data on to make informed decisions. Then split into pairs or small groups, choose one, and work on making it clearer before you next meet. This way, your strategy evolves over time, can gradually be strengthened, and benefits from collective effort. Don’t forget to remove old, irrelevant info as you go too.
There are many ways businesses can organize to grow and deliver value, but not all of them are equally effective. Melissa Perri, the author of The Build Trap, acknowledges four primary organizational patterns that take very different approaches to achieve growth and value delivery, we have added a fifth pattern that is very common too, the budget-led organization.
Budget-led organizations focus on long term planning and mitigate the risk of people working on the wrong thing by having everyone hand in their plans on an often yearly basis and having them reviewed and committed to. This is often a time consuming process, not only to plan, but also to follow up on how all parts of the organization are doing compared to the plan. Important metrics are often deviation from plan as well as obsession over if the work is maintenance or innovation (opex or capex). This type of internal focus gives the organization a locked focus. No matter if the target moves away, the structures are set up to make sure you stick to the obsolete plan. It does not allow new insights to impact what gets delivered and the organization cannot have customer focus nor compete on a fast moving market. Most times people in the organization spend most of their time trying to find ways to game the system to be able to have any success at all.
Sales-led organizations work closely with clients to define the product roadmap, taking all of their requests, and sometimes customizing things especially for them. The challenge, however, is when it comes to scaling. Organizations with 50 to 100 customers or more cannot build everything uniquely to match the needs of each customer unless they want to become a bespoke agency. Most products delivered by sales-led organizations suffer from debts in all possible ways; product, usability and tech.
All product companies likely have a document titled Product Strategy, but do they have a real product strategy? Perhaps you’re in charge of the product strategy and want to test and strengthen it. Perhaps you’re a Product Manager feeling the consequences of a strategy that isn’t fulfilling its promise. Do you see any of these symptoms in your product company?
Direct solutions coming from senior stakeholders, without space for product discovery
Teams and stakeholders feeling the costs of context switching, working on very different initiatives, and spread thin
Teams caught by surprises, needing to help other teams working on very different initiatives
Senior product stakeholders unhappy with PM decisions closer to the work, even if the PMs are technically making decisions that fit within the strategy
Slick presentations promising upcoming, unvalidated features, rather than focus on opportunities
Alignment is crucial. You can get alignment by directly reviewing decisions, Or, you can share the appropriate information and decision making framework so that others can make smart decisions without the direct oversight. To scale, product leaders can no longer rely on personally approving plans. A leader’s role is to enable their colleagues to make decisions themselves. Especially in the days of hybrid workspaces, it’s all about the flow of information. Your strategy plays a huge role in that information flow.
In this poster, I have collected some organizational design patterns from Agile product organizations at scale. The highlighted questions might serve as an entry point to different topics, such as design principles for the organization, strategy for growing teams and individuals, how to enable autonomy and alignment and how to design the leadership teams to support and grow an awesome product organization that delivers products customers love.
Agility is about adapting and delivering value. More and more organisations are discovering that they either need to get on the agile train or fall hopelessly behind.
Many of them turn to frameworks to adapt agile ways of working. But what they get is another framework that will sit on top of the others and cause more confusion and frustration. What they need is to focus on the real problems like organisation, leadership and culture. I’m going to use SAFe as an example in this text (there are other frameworks trying to solve this out there but I know more about SAFe).
A framework with a clear hierarchical role chart, process arrows, planning cycles and new roles is a way of satisfying the controlling part of an organisation. And it is exactly this part that we need to remove, if we want to be truly agile. To dare go down the agile road you need trust from leaders and in many organisations that is the exact thing they are lacking. So their own fear of losing control drives them to turn to things their recognize, roles and hierarchy, processes and planning, things that are feeding the controlling needs and is satisfying their own fears.
When introducing a framework like SAFe you are forced to focus on roles and planning cycles instead of culture, organisation and leadership. To get the right people in these roles is not an easy task an one that is impossible if there are no people with an agile mindset in the organisation. When people without agile mindset take on these roles what we get is another gant chart and detailed planning that will not adapt to the changing needs of the customer.
When Agile becomes something for the whole organization leadership needs to adapt to support Agile values and principles. Take the opportunity to give energy and grow a leadership that supports an organization fit for the future. Let’s build an Agile Mindset that can change how leaders act in their daily activities, how they lead people and business, form organizations and governance.
EDIT 2021: The poster is now updated to ver 1.2 with some improvements and better connection to transformational leadership and theory X and Y.
This poster is for me a way to visualize key concepts for how to lead with an Agile Mindset. At Dandy People we use it in our Agile coaching and training. We hope you as well can have use for it in your work. Please let us know if you have any feedback or questions on this poster.
To Lead in Complexity
The basis for Agile leadership is that we need to have a leadership that works in complexity – that support flexibility, transparency, collaboration and authonomy to enable the “workers” to make smart tactical and operative decisions to reach well defined impact goals. There are several common leadership concepts that support this kind of leadership;
Three leadership Styles
In the poster there are three leadership styles visualized;
Catalyst Leadership (Best for Agile)
The infographic contains numerous of illustrations to visualize some of the behaviours of each leadership style. I believe (without perhaps any support from research) that you can change leadership style to become a Catalyst Leader if you make this decision, practice and work on it. I also believe that the environment we live and act in shapes how we behave and what we might see as good leadership.
Agile Mindset and what it might mean in Reality
When you understand that Agile actually is a way of thinking, a mindset, and not a process ot tools, it usually unlocks the “next level” in your game. But many leaders might find it quite difficult to put the Agile mindset to practice in reality. What does it really mean for governance? How do we build organizations, create good salary models, plan our projects, grow our staffs knowledge, build teams…? I have covered just a tiny part of that in this poster, the list could go on forever I know.
Need Coaching and Training for Agile Leadership?
If you need help to reshape the leadership in your organization to support your Agile journey, let us know and we’ll happily join forces with you to coach and train your managers and every one else who can become leaders. (more…)
Many Agile teams are struggling to connect user experience and the design process with Agile ways of working and often Scrum. In this Poster (and post) I´m trying to describe the connection, and how you can collaborate in the team to learn more about user needs and solutions to solve real user problems together. I´ve been using this poster for over a year in my combined PO and UX training (Build the Right Product – Innovation through Collaboration & Design Thinking) and in my Agile coaching.
UX stands for User Experience. Basically, the expected and needed user experience of the service or digital product to meet user and business goals. To connect user needs and business goals is basic when working with user experience, it is basic to meet users and understand who they are – and involve and understand stakeholders. Any team can work with UX as long as they get to do this, and have the methods and processes to do it in a structured and effective way. (more…)
To be able to stay focused on what really matters you need to have a clear strategy. When companies are small it is not always easy to have a clear strategy and act on it, but it is usually a lot easier than in big companies. To be able to do innovation and also stay customer focused even in big organisations a clear vision and strategy is essential. And every one in the organisation needs to understand the strategy.
There is a research done by Harvard Business School saying only 5% of the employees know about their business strategy. This is really scary for anyone running a business, and something everyone in a position to make strategic decisions needs to take really seriously. If people in the organisation don’t know about, or understand the vision or the strategy, how can they then make tactical and operational smart decisions making the business go in the right direction? There is only one answer to that question, they cant.
A Collaboration and Visualization tool to make Strategy Transparent
This fall I’ve been doing a talk around the topic “Customer Focused with an Agile Mindset” where I talk about how leaders of organizations need to grow an Agile mindset and make a strategic decision to become customer focused to be able to survive in the fast moving complex world of today, and how that can be done. The Innovation Map is one of the slides of my talk and I’ve been getting a lot of great feedback on it. Something many people feel is missing today is a holistic overview of the different strategies the organization have, and to be able to use it in their daily work making sure they are on the right track.
The Innovation Map is a great tool to be able to visualize what strategic initiatives the organisation have, or perhaps don’t have. Also it can be used to visualize the initiatives TOGETHER, ACROSS the organization. In this way when involving more people we can easier see the full picture of where we are going, and what we can do about it. By involving the people working front line with the customers knowing about their needs as well as those that can create the solutions to help the customers and not only management, you grow both an understanding of what the business strategy is – AND – you get their valuable knowledge of what the customer needs are and what can actually be possible to do or not do today and in the future. Then it will be up to management to prioritize the strategy based on different business scenarios.