How to communicate and execute on your product strategy

Part 2 of the product strategy series (1.Creating, 2.Communicating, 3.Executing)

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3-Stages to product strategy

Last week was the first part in the product strategy series — where we dived into what strategy is, why it’s essential, and how to create it.

  1. (Last week) You need to be able to create the actual strategy

  2. (This week) You need to be able to communicate it effectively

  3. (This week ) You need to be able to execute on it

If you fail to do any of those things, you're not going to have a winning strategy. If you haven’t read last weeks one yet — I definitely recommend starting there first and coming back to this one.

The Product Slice
Creating product strategy
👋 Hi, I'm Jaryd. Welcome to this weeks Slice— the free weekly newsletter for PMs and founders about product, startups and growth. If you’re not as subscriber already, join below. It’s free. 👇 If you enjoy this newsletter, and know someone else who also might, you can share it below👇…
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This week is all about number 2 and 3- communicating and executing on strategy

Let’s dive in.

1. Communicating your strategy

Having crafted a good strategy with a strong kernel is one thing – the next step is making sure that you're effectively able to communicate that to other people – and get them excited!

A great strategy without understanding and buy-in from your team means you won't be able to effectively organize people around the execution of it – which means it's as good as a piece of paper gathering dust on a shelf. 

Being able to articulate in a clear and memorable way (1) what's going on, (2) what the challenges are, and (3) how you're going to solve them to others is vital.

Here are some qualities of a strategy that's well articulated:

  • It's short and focused. 

  • It has a story.

  • It's memorable.

  • It's accessible. 

  • It's clear about what needs to be done.

A reminder – those qualities don't define a good strategy – you could definitely have a bad strategy that's short and memorable, trust me. These are indications that the organization of the strategy is well thought through and has been prepared for others.

Presenting your strategy

Presenting your strategy verbally to senior management and the leadership team can feel overwhelming – every time I've done it I feel anxious. 

At this point, you've hopefully taken your good strategy and organized it in a structured way, setting you up to talk about it well. You now need to be able to present it verbally and be ready to take on feedback, defend it at the right times, and get the buy-in you need.

So, here are some helpful tips to keep in mind before sharing and walking through your product strategy.

  • Have a visual deck. This supports what you'll be talking about to the team. It's goal should be to make what you're saying easier to follow and more memorable. 
     

  • Be familiar with the content. This may seem obvious, since you made it, but you'd have gone through a lot of research and information surrounding what actually goes into your strategy and deck. Being able to recall customer anecdotes or other interesting findings is helpful especially when getting to the point where you're answering questions.
     

  • Prepare for leadership/executive questions. The better you can anticipate the types of questions your audience will ask you, and address those during your walkthrough, the more successful your presentation will land with them. However, you will never be able to do that 100%, so mentally prepare to speak to the reasoning behind anything you have in your strategy. When the questions come, take a moment to pause – and then answer directly and avoid rambling, especially when you're trying to fill the gap of not having a good answer.

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3. Acting on your strategy

The third piece of a winning product strategy is the actual execution of it. The best strategy in the world on paper that doesn't end up getting used or properly organized around is a total waste of time. 

With an approved strategy on deck, there are three high-level steps to acting on it. 

  • Using it to create and drive your goals and roadmap

  • Evangelizing it across the organization

  • Being ready to evolve it.

Strategy drives your goals and roadmap

Remember this sequence?

1. Mission: What are you trying to achieve?

2. Vision: What does the world look like when you've achieved it?

3. Strategy: How will you achieve it?

4. Goals: How will you measure our progress towards it?

5. Roadmap: What do you need to build to grow and get there?
 

Now that you know how you are going to move from A to B – addressing key challenges and using your areas of leverage towards your end-vision – you need to plan out what the tactical executable initiatives will be to get you there. 

Evangelize it

Once you have the buy-in you need and your strategy is approved by leadership – you now have to make sure it's front-and-centre across the organization and everyone and their efforts rally around it. Failing to do this means acting on your strategy (this third requirement of a winning strategy) is going to be increasingly difficult.

Evangelizing your product strategy means you make sure everyone sees the same inspiring future and understands what the planned path is to get there. To get to this point means you actively need to communicate and share the strategy with the rest of the team. 

Here are some tips for evangelizing your strategy:

  • Present the strategy to the team. You can do a walkthrough either at a company all-hands meeting, or setup up a dedicated meeting for it. Make sure to allow for Q&A time. 
     

  • Share your strategy. Add your strategy memo and deck to a shared drive where it's easy for all teammates to find and access, and then make sure to let everyone know it's there.
     

  • Host quarterly strategy/roadmap checkins. Presenting once is not enough -- you want to refresh the team regularly on the plan, progress and wins towards the vision, and what's coming up next. 
     

  • Refer back to strategy in meetings. Almost everything the team is working on relates to the strategy, so it makes sense it gets spoken about regularly. When prioritizing tasks or feedback – run it through your strategy-filter, and communicate that decision framework to others. Sometimes conversations get too caught up in the details of things, and when you bring the discussion back up to the big-picture, it realigns everyone on strategy and helps move things along.  
     

  • Refer back to strategy in 1-pages and tickets. All executables, whether roadmap items or features that come up during the year, should ladder up to the strategy. I like to include a little block at the top of all my product documentation and tickets that basically says, “Hey, this piece of work you're about to do is helping us achieve this part of our big-picture growth strategy in this way.” I find this a helpful way to always have strategy part of the conversation.

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Evolve it

As you execute your strategy, you will always be learning a bunch of stuff – giving you an opportunity to validate parts of your plan.

You'll be staying on top of market and industry changes, hearing news about competitors, you'll be getting feedback from your customers as you roll-out products, and getting more useful data insights. This could tell you that you're on the right track, or are wrong in some hypotheses and need to adjust your plans.

Your strategy is not static. If it is, you might end up like Blockbuster or Kodak. Always be thinking about how you can refine and strengthen the strategy. What would make it better, stronger, and clearer?

Your strategic plan should be ready to evolve and respond to what you and your team learn – that's part of the motions of it and is not something to feel bad or ashamed about. Your job as a PM is agile, and your strategic work is no exception. You can't predict things – if you had a strategy in place and plan approved just before Covid became a thing, would you have reviewed and changed anything after the fact? 


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The Product Slice is the free weekly newsletter for PMs and founders about product, startups and growth.

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