On Vision & Strategy
A collection of (INCOMPLETE) PERSONAL thoughts

On vision, strategy and execution.

Vision Cascade

How product vision, strategy and principles relate to one another.

  1. Vision
    The shared objective for the product organization that creates a purpose.
  2. Strategy
    A plan for accomplishing the product vision. Doesn’t contain a schedule but can contain milestones.
  3. Principles
    The nature of the products that the organization believes it needs to build as part of the strategy. Reflect organisational values and strategic decisions that help with decision making in trade-off situations.
  4. Priorities
    High-level prioritization decision to clearly state what’s most important and what isn’t. In an OKR setup, leaders of the organization define the objectives and key results for the organization as a whole.
  5. Evangelism
    Constant communicating of the vision, both to the product organization, and also across the company more broadly -- it’s never “done”.

On Strategy

A strategy is not a set of goals or a set of actions.

Strategy is the translation from business goals to concrete actions given current realities of business (industry, market, competition) and organization (resources, skills, expertise, structures, weaknesses).

Getting input on strategy from the base (e.g. by surveying all employees) can be valuable, but without a focus on a particular problem area with clear guardrails you will likely end up with the more obvious ideas instead of the ones that require creativity.

The Strategy Value (SV) of a Strategy is a function of the Strategy Potential (SP) and the Strategy Execution (SE): 

SV = SP x SE

As executing on a strategy is often the hardest part, an actionable strategy with sub-optimal potential is better than a potentially optimal strategy that can't feasibly be implemented.

Strategic factors regarding ORG (Employee Profiles, Resources, Structures, Processes, …) need to be taken into account as drivers of future execution. Two different high-level approaches:

  1. Regard organizational structures and resources as fixed and anticipate limitations of execution in the creation of the strategy itself = Reverse engineering strategy to fit the limitations of the organization.
  2. Regard organizational structures and resources as variable make changes to it based on the strategy and needs for execution (process changes, Org changes, hiring, firing & promoting, R&Rs, etc.) = Adapting the organization to fit the desired strategy

Even the most capable people can’t succeed if the structure they have to operate in doesn’t allow it.

Strategic Planning

Strategic Planning is the definition of the strategy itself as well as the creation of guidance to the organization for strategy execution.

High Level Process:

  1. Formulate Business Objectives (Leadership)
    What is the desired impact on business, market, brand and organization?
  2. Develop Strategic Stances (Leadership)
    Convictions (data- and/or belief-driven) on relevant strategic factors in the areas of:
    • Industry (Customers, Competitors, Trends, Legal, …)
    • Product (Innovation, Iteration, Expansion, Usage & Value, Technology, …)
    • Business (Internationalization, Monetization, Partnerships, …)
    • Brand (Service, Communication, …)
    • ORG (Employee Profiles, Resources, Structures, Processes, …)
  3. Set Strategic Focus Areas (Leadership + Team Leads)
    Direction and guidance for which problem areas to focus on (where & what), as well as guardrails around how to make decisions and prioritize (how).
  4. Problem Breakdown (Team Leads + Team)
    Analysis of challenges to overcome and high level plan of execution:
    • Prioritized and sequenced problems (research + data analysis)
    • High-level milestones and check-ins for re-calibration
    • Potential solutions and interdependencies of development on a roadmap
  5. Execution (Teams)
    Empowered product teams to creatively solve problems with frequent leadership interaction to stay aligned on direction and priorities. E.g.:
    • Management by OKRs for organizations with several teams
    • Management by personal interaction and alignment for independent small teams