“How do you align your product strategy to the broader corporate strategy?”
Just to refresh our collective memory, we did have an earlier question that asked about the difference between a product strategy and a business strategy. To review that answer, please check out Episode 12, which you can find here.
But since I answered that question, I’ve received follow-up questions from no less than 4 different individuals regarding how you can best align those two different types of strategies. So that’s the question that I’m going to answer here. And because it’s kind of a long answer, I’m going to do it in two parts.
Part 1 of my answer is about gaining alignment from the corporate strategy down; which means that this part of my answer will be directed mostly at company leaders. If that’s not you, then go ahead and forward this to your boss!
If you’re a company leader, you probably have some idea of what your company strategy is. After all, it would be pretty difficult to achieve any level of success by committing random acts that aren’t connected by some overall plan. So, the problem usually isn’t the fact that no overall company strategy exists. The problem is, however, the fact that too few people in your company actually know what that overall strategy is.
Unfortunately, as leaders, it’s all too easy to fall into the trap of “well of course they must know what our strategy is!” After all, you probably presented it to your team at least once – so why wouldn’t they retain it? Well, if you do any amount of advertising to the outside world, you already know the answer. People don’t absorb ANYTHING after only hearing it once. You need to keep it front and center in their minds in every way possible – like the strategic equivalent of a Kardashian.
But how do you do that without the aid of reality TV?
Post about your strategy; talk about it; bring it up in your weekly and monthly meetings. Review it, track against it, and make it a part of every employee’s performance plan. Heck, you can even play a game and give prizes out for anyone who can successfully recite the company’s strategy back to you. The point is – make it fun, make it interesting, and make people constantly aware of what you, as a company, are trying to do.
Remember that it’s not just your shareholders and executives that need to know your strategy – it’s your employees as well. Because guess who’s going to be executing it for you?
But before I leave all this on your managers’ shoulders, for all you product managers out there, you have some responsibility for the top-down part of this answer as well.
If you don’t know what your overall corporate strategy is, go find out – even if it hasn’t been proactively communicated to you. Talk to your leaders; find out what they’re thinking; understand what they’re telling the shareholders; ask them what role they expect you to play. Remember that there is no shame in not knowing what your company strategy is; the real shame is when you don’t care enough to ask.
So that’s alignment from the top down. But even once you know what your overall company strategy is, you still need to align it to your product strategy from the bottom up. And that’s where we’ll pick up our discussion next week.
Listen to the podcast episode
Dear Strategy: Episode 027