The release day is close. So many things to do, how to prioritize what to do next? How to discern what is really relevant from what is seemingly urgent, but with little impact in the product? How to make decisions with a cool head when faced with a looming deadline? Many teams are stuck with these questions and have little support or help to understand how to overcome these questions.
One team that I worked with at some point coined the phrase “being a slave to the backlog” to describe the feeling of powerlessness, and being imprisoned in the relentless rhythm that took them from story to story through overtime and much stress without a clear vision or direction. They truly felt slaves to the backlog.
Seat of the pants Product Management
In the best case some teams might just take the problem by the seat of the pants and soldier through the project, delivering consistently, but losing any motivation or innovation potential that a more sustainable approach might give them. After all, there’s a reason why Scrummers are constantly remind us and themselves that we should aim for “Sustainable Pace”, the mythical marathon rhythm that will take you through the death march.
Some step back, understand what it is that they you trying to achieve
This is not what software development is supposed to be. We are supposed to feel confident that we know the direction we must take. We are supposed to feel secure when we make decisions on what to do, and most importantly what *not* to do. How can we achieve that feeling of purpose and serene conviction of understanding the problems we are trying to solve?
Enter Strategic Product Management.
At first Strategic Product Management may sound like a mythical god-like creature that is here to solve all our problems (and indeed for some teams it will at first feel like that). However, Strategic Product Management is something much simpler. It is the set of practices and habits of creating a more concrete Vision as you go and being able to apply it on a day-to-day basis: to avoid the Siren’s song of Urgency and Fire-Fighting; to help us re-check our purpose at every step of the development process.
Why Strategic Product Management?
All decisions we make affect the quality and the Vision-fidelity of our product. It is when we are most in a hurry that we need crystal-clear decision criteria that lead us to the Product Vision we created. It is because of these that we must always “begin with end in mind” and define our Strategic Product Goals (aka the Product Vision) and regularly review those based on the feedback we collect throughout the development of the product.
However decisions about what to focus, prioritize or remove come at unexpected times, and all throughout the project, and it is because of that Strategic Product Management must be conceived as a set of cycles, of loops of learning that guide our development work.Strategic Product Management is the act of putting your day-to-day work in the context of what you are trying to achieve and focuses on these areas of work: Strategy, Portfolio and Roadmap
In a later blog post I’ll outline the detailed practices that I have been experimenting with to put in practice what I’ve now tried to define: Strategic Product Management.