So let’s assume you have an idea, a brilliant one, you know your product will change how world operates. Something that will create a wish or solve an already existing need. Great! This is called a Vision. An effective one needs to be:
- big –when the vision is inspiring it’s easier to get the interest and commitment of the team. If everyone engages in the vision’s interpretation you will get more possible ways of it’s realization
- inspiring – it makes you feel something, creates a wish to be a part of it
- shared – yes, your employees know why you do what you do
- easy to understand and communicate.
Yes, you should always start with Why (by S.Sinek).
‘In order to be fully committed, you have to be convinced that what you are doing is right: life is too short to work on products you don’t believe in.’ – R.Pichler, Strategize
I often hear – we want to have the best selling offer, we want to be #1 or we want to make money – really? Well, I’m ‘motivated’, highly;)
‘to provide access to the world’s information in one click.’
– Google vision statement [and how is it different?]
To make a meaningful change you need to choose where to put your efforts wisely. You need to decide which market and/or segment to pick. You need to know what your competition is and what pricing is good to start with. This is called Strategy. It’s the high level plan which will make your vision come true (bit by bit). It determines who and why will buy your product. It’s a combination of needs and problems you are going to fulfill, what main features you are going to provide and how it will bring you money.
The common misunderstanding however, is thinking that business model is a strategy. If you are producing and selling bricks – ‘Making high quality, affordable bricks’ is not a strategy. It is a description of a business model.
‘The essence of strategy is choosing what not to do. ‘ – M.E.Porter
It’s so easy to figure out what features product needs to have but most of the time you won’t have time, resources or team capacity to accomplish all your wishes. And basically it’s great, because probably most of them is not what customer really wants! To fit the opportunity window you will need to resign from something. And this is the art of strategy – removing stuff from your plans. You can try methods like KANO or Eliminate/Reduce/Raise/Create for a start.
In previous example: ‘We provide value for money. Decent bricks at affordable prices. We focus on optimizing our processes for bricks to be of repeatable quality lowering costs of manufacturing’. What it really means: we will not: ‘have a high quality brochures’, ‘our sellers would use Fiat Uno instead of Skoda Superb’ and so on.
And you have a product backlog. An ordered list of everything that might be needed in the product – just as Scrum Guide says. It’s an ultimate source of truth. You will find features, stories, task, bugs, improvements and more, whatever you call them. But it also needs to be available, visible and clear to all, especially teams working on it. Yes, it’s a very tough job. But no one said the Product Owner role is easy, right? My experience shows that it’s quite simple to get lost in details of incoming sprints sliced into smaller product backlog items. refining and ordering of items and planning sprints. Stakeholders usually operate at higher level of abstraction – like the whole feature level. Of course there are techniques like visualisation, adding themes or epic-like-coding that will show the connection between particular items in backlog. But even applying this doesn’t always support view of the whole picture.
It’s quite hard to travel from vision to a backlog item and vice versa. You need something more. Something which will glue part of your dream with specific elements in your backlog. It’s called a roadmap. The roadmap shows how the strategy is applied. The strategy implementation should be a set of measurable in time goals that you want your product to reach. Good roadmap is a SMART one:
- Specific – why we release and what we want to achieve
- Measurable – how we will know we reached the goal
- Agreed – stakeholders bought into
- Realistic – we have data which says so – e.q. team estimates
- Time- bound – time is precious, especially in bringing something new to market life.
‘Shared goals also facilitate collaboration: they focus everyone on the desired benefits, rather than being fixated on single features. Finally, goals can make it easier to market and sell your product, as they describe the benefits the product creates.’ – R.Pichler, Strategize
Good roadmap brings goals we want to achieve. Providing list of features we want is an easy step. Adding some thinking about what we really want to change in particular releases can be a serious challenge. Do we want to improve customer operation flow decreasing cost of service or maybe improve the overall product performance? Yes? How much? How will we know? When can we measure it? Those goals and measures are like milestones helping you shape the product. This will make you think– do we support the strategy? Is the roadmap a valid one? Are those the most important things we want to focus on now?
IT WORKS IN BOTH DIRECTIONS
Agile delivery enables ability to validate your assumptions quicker. Walking skeleton, sliced cake, MVP and all other useful techniques should bring you closer to answering to – does it make sense to continue this way?- question. Are we supporting the roadmap? Is it still worth to support it? Is this particular roadmap the best way to support our strategy? From vision to backlog and vice versa, each artifact, when reviewed with right frequency brings new perspectives. And there comes a chance to decide when to persevere, pivot or even shut down the business. Sprint review gives you information about what to build next, roadmap session shows how to apply strategy better, strategy review defines how to achieve vision and vision review determines redefining the main purpose of how you do your business.
- ‘Strategize’ Roman Pichler
- ‘Start with Why’ Simon Sinek
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