Consistent with last year’s findings in the 2012 Study of Product Team Performance, the importance of having a corporate strategy that the product team can link to and align with remains a statistically significant indicator of a product team’s ability to achieve high performance. If the executive team has not constructed, communicated, or deployed the broader company strategy, the product team will have nothing to tether their product development activities to and no way to determine which activities to pursue and – perhaps more importantly – not pursue. In fact, the 2012 study illustrated that approximately 91% of respondents indicated that their daily activities were aligned with the company business strategy. However, a closer look at how this alignment was occurring indicated a heavy reliance on product roadmaps in the absence of product strategy.
This year’s study clearly showed that 37% of organizations have a coherent business strategy they stick to and effectively communicate. The majority of organizations (54%) that have a corporate strategy minimize its effectiveness by not effectively communicating it or changing it so frequently that it is perceived by the product teams of being of little use.
Without a clearly communicated corporate strategy, the product team is often forced to focus on tactical roadmap activities and deliverables. Over time, this can undermine the effectiveness of not only product managers and product owners but the entire product team. With no guiding corporate strategy, the team is unsure how the day-to-day tactical activities link back to the company’s strategic direction. The resulting disconnect negatively impacts performance. Motivation plummets as team members struggle to perceive their contribution to the company and the company’s contribution to the surrounding competitive market place.
As demonstrated by last year’s study, low-performing teams typically lack ability to align day-to-day tactical activities with the company strategy. This linkage is usually created by developing a multi-year product strategy and a parallel multi-year technology roadmap that bridge corporate strategy and tactical day-to-day activities.
High-performing teams benefit from understanding the corporate strategy, tethering tactical activities to the corporate strategy via well-defined multi-year product and technology strategies, and leveraging the connection between day-to-day objectives and product, and between product and company goals and mission, to motivate higher performance. Product and development managers who lack knowledge of the corporate strategy have no grounding from which to effectively develop useful multi-year product and technology strategies, nor tools to motivate their teams. This leads to an inherent market disadvantage, as better aligned organizations capitalize upon clarity of purpose and action.
The difference between reactive product development and effective product management may well lie in product management’s ability to proactively develop a forward-looking product strategy that helps enable the attainment of your company’s business strategy – assuming that your company has one!
Greg Geracie is a recognized thought leader in the field of product management and the President of Actuation Consulting, a global provider of product management consulting, training, and advisory services to some of the world’s most well-known organizations. Greg is also the author of the global best seller Take Charge Product Management. He is also an adjunct professor at DePaul University’s College of Computing and Digital Media where he teaches graduate and undergraduate courses on high-tech and digital product management.