15 minutes to a product strategy – in 5 easy steps

In our session last week for Product Anonymous I (Liz) covered the process I went through of how to get to your product strategy in 15 minutes.   Here’s how you can get to your product strategy in 5 simple steps and 15 minutes (or so!).  The methodology below helped me in the battle of the urgent versus the important stuff – happy to hear your thoughts on what has worked for you.

1. Prep – this should only take a few minutes to grab and organise any documents or reference material you might need to look at for your strategy time.  My materials were the recently released product strategy document and the original product brief.  You are only going to give yourself 15 minutes so make sure you have what you need but not everything ever written!

2. Turn off the devices – you need to be away from distraction, so move away from your computer, iPad, phone or other related distracting gadgets.  Bring paper and pen!!  Go old school and ensure you cannot be derailed during these precious 15 minutes you have carved out for yourself.

3. The 15 minute brain dump session – this is it.  This is the part where you do not edit yourself! You scribble whatever comes to mind and dump onto paper whatever is in your brain.  If you were running a group through this type of session, you would have given them post-it note pads and pens and told them to write until the timer goes off.  Apply the same format to yourself and find out what is in your head!

4. The finish – make sure that in the last 30 seconds on the clock – no matter how raw it is – write down 3 things you would like to say to your CEO about where you product should go in the next 3 years.  You are going to refine this later, so make sure it is just the first thing that comes to mind, not the perfect version!

5. Now sleep on it! – put the pen down, close the book and walk away.  Let it settle in your mind and don’t do any refinement until the next day.

Now, unfortunately I have to confess a little bit more time did go into my strategy.   Did you really think you could get this done in 15 minutes?  Take a moment here to be pleased with what you have done, you have made progress and are further along on the path to creating your strategy.  In keeping with the approach, keep time boxing the steps to no more than 15 minutes chunks to keep it from being overwhelming.  Another 5 steps! After I slept on it:

  1. Type – I took my raw notes and typed them up into a presentation format, now edited some of the braindump and got it organised.
  2. Add – some market research if you have it, or plan the market research you need
  3. Talk – I ran it past a mentor to take off the rough edges and sound out the thinking
  4. Revise – clean up the presentation with refined thoughts
  5. Talk – take it to the next person you need, for me that was talk it through with my boss.

Repeat the above steps as often as needed. Execution and further finesse will still take more time, but now you know where you are going. And in an elevator ride with your CEO you’ll be able to demonstrate clear forward thinking. And perhaps most importantly you will be able to focus on the day to day tactical things that will help you achieve your strategy.

A key point that was called out during the discussion of this process during our Prod Anon session on Thursday night: do make sure whatever you have outlined will tie back into your greater corporate or department strategy. I do think a product has to have its own strategy and the two should work together to be aligned rather than everything coming from the top down.  However, do ensure you know how much of your strategy will rock the boat (or not) before you start waving it around.

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