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About Product Strategy

My guide on building and writing a product strategy document
This document overviews loosely the process I have used over the years and companies to develop a point-of-view (pov) on where to take products, to communicate the pov and set-up for execution. It doesn’t go into all the detail or have examples of everything. Because I used the latest incarnation I did for Dropbox, I had to redact specific examples but left a few in. But also as a result, it does not articulate alternate framings from my previous jobs. It also falls short of covering interesting things like the social dynamics, how to manage strong stake-holders in the process (like founders), etc. But, hey its something written-down.

One note – I don’t really believe the
will “just create” the right output. I do believe an incomplete or bad process will impede or corrupt the right output. But ultimately, someone involved needs to have the ability to connect the dots, reach the moments of clarity and be empowered to make choices/bets.

My own personal experience has been that I go through a journey doing this work. I know I am really hearing input when I start getting confused and when things are foggy and unclear. I know the stakes are right when I start getting anxious about ongoing work and how relevant it might be. But ultimately I do have some moment when the fog clears and I can see a path forward. One that needs to be shaped still for sure, but a concept or point-of-view that has a chance at moving the needle.
Summary of steps:
1. Socialize
What is the problem you are going to solve, who are the stakeholders, what are they most interested in, etc. This is a bunch of listening 1-1s where you are asking about what’s working, where we are struggling (as a business and/or as a product), etc.

2. Establish an “operating team.”
Ideally this is very small group that is composed of: someone who can help you with the PM work involved, someone who has the connective tissue back to the largest other stakeholder organizations (CoS to the COO is a good example), whoever is leading PM or a senior proxy thereof. Work with this team on the Setup and to define the Journey.

3. Frame the work
Establish the process itself and the inputs, stakeholders, etc. Send a memo/email whatever that frames the work and the process to the most important stakeholders. See more in

4. Kick it off more broadly to everyone involved and contributing by communicating the process itself.
This is a memo/email that frames how the work will happen, what is expected as outcomes. And it’s a deeper view into the work various team will need to do to provide input. See

5. Operate a transparent process over a period of weeks.
Use a Russian doll model – concentric rings of stakeholders that you work through to get input, to socialize inputs, etc. One important step is the right set of leaders/stakeholders in the room that are absorbing the same set of input together. I call this a summit. This process ends with having a written strategy - this step is the actual process itself.

6. Communicate broadly to the org.
Repeat. There is a carefully written document for that.

7. Shift to execution
Visibly launch new projects or initiatives that express the updated strategy.

Additional higher-level detail
Setup - Define the goal of the process
Define what is in the “picture of success”
Time horizon
Product vision?
Product strategy [table stakes, differentiators, blockers]?
Markets and approach?
Team rhythms and cadence?
Who is involved for what components
What are the leadership groups, key influencers in the team, and other stakeholders?
Is there a CAB or Insiders Group that you want to involve?
Clarify what is being sought in the “learning work”
Establish timelines
Time allotted to various activities
What checkpoints occur along the way
How much time will be spent by which people on the “leadership discussion”

Journey - The learning work (to established shared context). For example, some of this includes
Select and acquire
Synthesize materials
Optional: consultation
Teams/individuals for investigations
Selection (mix of existing, current wins, engaged losses and non-customers)
Teams/individuals for interviews
Synthesize and report
Other input
Select from the VCs, Banks, partners/ecosystem?
Teams/individuals for interviews
Synthesize and report

Summit - Leadership discussion
Prep work
Learnings work – create as pre-readings or what/how cover during the meeting?
Decide on a frame, for example:
Create view on maturity matrix [high/low growth, etc.]
Slot segments/opportunities into that matrix, look at feature needs through this lens, GTM, etc. [understand target customers, reasons they buy, etc]
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