Updated: Mar 19
This is the second in a two-part Product Leadership Imperative series. You can read Part I here.
So how do we do this? How do we address the Product Leadership Imperative and create companies and teams that are doing the right things, right? Melissa Perri provides some great insight around product strategy aligning with corporate vision and building a culture focused on successful outcomes rather than outputs; but I believe there is more to be said, more to be done, more to be developed around the Product Leadership aspect of product. Reading “The Build Trap” has inspired me to start focusing on this, putting down all of the ideas and approaches that are in my head, and that I have developed with my clients and teams when I was an executive. Additionally, it has me exploring new best practices that can help the product industry address the Product Leadership Imperative, ensuring we get the best of leadership and management – doing the right things, right. So how do we do this? How do we address the Product Leadership Imperative and create companies and teams that are doing the right things, right? Let me share three key competencies that are critical to enabling Product Leadership.
Culture and Organization that Support Innovation
The first competence, or more so environment, that is critical to enabling product leadership is a Culture and Organization that Support Innovation. I have always had an issue with the old adage “Culture eats strategy for breakfast” as I think Culture and Strategy need to be partners as they enable each other. With that said, the Culture and Organization of a company is the biggest factor when it comes to enabling success. You can have all of the best intentions in the world, but if your Culture and Organization are not supportive of innovation you will not succeed. So how can a Culture and Organization support Innovation? It needs to be a culture that helps us “know and understand the customer so well” as Peter Drucker defines marketing. A culture that is continually looking for new ways to create value and innovate. To establish this a company needs to do three key things: Prioritize Ongoing Market Understanding; Invest in Talent; and Have an Appetite for Prudent Risk Taking.
Strategic Growth Alignment
The second competence is having Strategic Growth Alignment.
Every organization needs to align its growth across three interrelated strategic lenses -- the Corporate Lens, the Market & Product Lens, and the Opportunity Lens. I call this the Growth Strategy Continuum.
The Corporate Lens looks at the purpose and vision of the company, sets the boundaries and focus for growth, and is the foundation for all growth-related decisions. The Market/Product Line Lens looks from a macro view at opportunities across market/product lines within the company, both those where we currently have products and need to manage product lifecycle and new opportunities to pursue. The Opportunity Lens looks at the market dynamics and business case for a specific opportunity. The Lenses across this Continuum and the four key strategies within the Lenses create a strategic planning foundation, with each strategy informing and guiding the next, while each strategy serves its own purpose. Corporate Strategy is the foundational strategy. It provides boundaries for markets and products, defines the differentiation and competences available to use to drive success in the market, prioritizes the strategic focus, and sets financial thresholds and goals. The main purpose of the Corporate Strategy is to provide focus to the company and the other strategies. Portfolio Strategy is where the Market/Product Line Lens and the Corporate Lens align, and it builds on the foundation of the Corporate Strategy. To do this it is key to develop a framework for prioritizing and optimizing growth opportunities across existing products and new opportunities, helping identify investment priorities both organic and inorganic. The main purpose for Portfolio Strategy is opportunity prioritization for the company and growth opportunities. Market/Product Line Strategies building from and informed by or Corporate and Portfolio Strategies, and is where the Market & Product Lens aligns with the Opportunity Lens. This is the place to review the current situation in the market and identify the specific growth opportunities for each Market/Product lines that have the best chance of success. Following this review define more specific market segmentation and product concepts for the growth opportunities, score each objectively, leading to a prioritized roadmap for realizing these opportunities. The main purpose of our Market/Product Line Strategies is to identify the best growth strategy for the current situation in our company and in the market. Finally, the Go to Market Strategy focuses on ensuring alignment across the company in the execution of the strategies for product launch and beyond. It gives focus to execution efforts through a clear value proposition and definition of differentiation, enabling marketing and sales to focus their efforts on the right customers with the right message. Additionally, it ensures the enablement of the sales channel to succeed with a full understanding of the buyers, their journey, and how their lives will be made better. The main purpose of our Go to Market Strategy is to optimize execution.
Objective Innovation Process
The final competence is an Objective Innovation Process. This is where Product Leadership meets Product Management. A company whose culture and organization supports innovation will identify more innovation opportunities than they have resources to deliver on. Through the ‘Strategic Growth Alignment,’ portfolio and market-product line strategies have been prioritized, and now is the time to realize them. To do this an objective, fact-based methodology like the Quartz Open Framework is needed.
From discovering and prioritizing the opportunities to committing resources through a business planning process to describing the context of the opportunity to enable product delivery and product marketing to create and deliver the right product and messaging, to connecting the dots to enable your sales channel, marketing, and services organization to realize the innovation opportunity. All of this builds on the core of continual learning. Throughout this methodology - from phase to phase - market facts will provide the foundation for transparent objective decisions informed through the Strategic Growth Alignment. Strong Product leadership comes when each competence is operating at a high-level. When this happens companies will have an ever-growing queue of potential opportunities to explore and be able to focus resources and efforts only on best opportunities, the right opportunities. Those opportunities will have a strong alignment with the corporate strategy, large market opportunities, and the best odds for success. Through strong product leadership, we will prioritize the right opportunities; and through strong product management, they will be done right, and the entire organization will succeed together. This is the Product Leadership Imperative.
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