There’s a startup product metaphor that bugs me. Your product is a rocket, and if your targeting at launch is 1% off — you miss the moon by 4,000 miles! The thing is products, rockets and targeting don’t work that way. I have resorted to a cartoon to explain. This cartoon complements a longer post on LinkedIn on Continuous Alignment of Product Management. https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/continuous-alignment-product-management-ross-mayfield
Continous Alignment of
By Ross Mayfield, CEO & Co-founder of Pingpad
There’s a product startup myth I’d like to bust. That what matters is having the
right plan when you launch, with perfect targeting. Sure that matters. But the myth
says if you are 1% off in your targeting a rocket to the moon, you miss it by 4,000
In most organizations today, alignment still happens through Push mechanisms. From an
executive planning process, and plan with the way things should be when is pushed into the
organization. Everyone has to get behind the plan.
Don’t get me wrong, there is extreme value in making plans and roadmaps. It’s an exercise in
thinking through the vision, landscape and resources that creates shared understanding,
assumptions and decided goals. That exercise, despite the best dysfunctions of teams, aligns
the participants and creates artifacts that share that understanding of strategy out to the
broader team for execution.
Leading agile companies set the vision, goals and measures. Their plans are a view of desired
outcomes and impacts. Their roadmaps are thematic, they make maps, but all plans and
assumptions are subject to change. They value rapid iteration and the speed of decisions. In
the shift from push to pull, making alignment a Pull function for product requires shifts in
tools, practices and cultural philosophies.
The lynchpin is one practice — how does this plan change?
If there is an exception to a process, how is it escalated, how does the right group of people
rapidly assemble, not just to fix the problem, but to learn from it? Exceptions, or problems,
come from a change in the environment the process and organization was not designed to
process. A change that is an opportunity. And that’s not how most organizations think of
problems. Mostly they are a pejorative, a chore to get done while time is tracked.
Leading companies put tools and processes in place. At least for the known knowns and
known unknowns. The unknowns unknowns are the realm of having a great team with
muscle memory from responding to prior unknown unknowns.
Or for example, creating an Idea Board (shameless plug) to source problems from sales, sales
engineering, customer success and support. They triage and prioritize them, assemble their
experts to craft solutions to problems, to put them into plans and action. The original context
is captured and stakeholders are automatically kept in synch. These new problems
continuously contest the roadmap, so there’s less of a gap in prioritizing the backlog for the
next iteration, the most valuable things are made visible, and prioritization goes forth with
Our hypothesis is Products are Conversations. In our research, we found that the biggest problem in Product Management is creating and executing a
roadmap that customers actually want. And in talking to over 50 product leads we gained some interesting insights into this problem.
There are a lot of tools and processes for the Product Owner part of the role. Think Jira. But not a lot for the core function of Product
Management — setting the vision, being close to customers to gain insight, prioritize and decide on their behalf, and continuous alignment of
stakeholders. The tools that seek to support this function largely originate from Project Management and trend towards Gantt Chart planning of
what should happen. They are used by a few to make and publish roadmaps for many.
Meanwhile alignment is episodically orchestrated in Slack channels, email and meetings. Product Managers get by because they have great
organization skills and communication discipline. But they lack a collaborative system that supports continuous alignment, and the automation that
enables the function to scale.
Want to continously align your Product Team?
Read the full post on LinkedIn
Got your Product Team on Slack?
Try Pingpad for ProductOps.