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I’m in ❤️ with this new approach to product strategy

http://0.gravatar.com/avatar/ad516503a11cd5ca435acc9bb6523536?s=68 Blake Bos wrote this on October 7, 2016

Product strategy has been and continues to be an obsession of mine. For me, product strategy boils down to figuring out the most impactful projects for a team to work on.

So when Doug, the founder of HeyTaco!, asked me to be a co-founder back in April I was ecstatic to start working on our strategy. 

Oh boy, was I in for a surprise…

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder

After a couple of weeks of getting to know HeyTaco!, I was ready to create our first theme-based roadmap. As a side note, if you have to make a roadmap, theme-based is the only way to fly.

So I began to create my first bureaucratic free roadmap, it was amazing. I didn’t have a bunch of stakeholders to get alignment from; just the problems facing HeyTaco! and some prioritization. This thing was going to be a masterpiece!

It was a Sunday afternoon when I finished my masterpiece, and I couldn’t wait to get Doug’s reaction. I sent it over and anxiously awaited his response.

And then it came….

roadmap reaction from doug
“That looks good.”

Three words, that was it! Definitely not what I was expecting.

To say this was disappointing would be an understatement. It triggered thoughts like, “Should I be trying to create a business with someone who doesn’t care about planning out strategy?” and made me unsure of my decision to quit my job to work on HeyTaco! full-time.

I told myself, “I have to get Doug excited about product strategy or this just isn’t going to work.”

Luckily my anxieties peaked late one night, and I had an epiphany.

A fresh start

HeyTaco! tears up roadmap

I realized Doug did care about planning out strategy. What he didn’t care about was roadmaps. I made the mistake of falling in love with a method, and it blinded me from seeing it was the wrong method for us.  This realization led to a lot of product strategy soul searching, and I’m refreshed to say, “HeyTaco! does not use a roadmap for short or long-term strategy.”

I could write a whole article on why, but will save that for another time. If you’re curious, this post by Chris Gallo is excellent.

What follows is our current thinking on product strategy at HeyTaco!, it’s heavily influenced by the team over at Basecamp and their blog Signal v. Noise. Who knows if it’s right, it’s definitely not perfect, but it feels good, it feels better. The best part is, we’re both excited about it.

Our new strategy—work on the obvious

Product strategy needs to have a guidepost; this is our vision. It matters, it’s high level, and if we don’t love it we should be working towards it.

Roadmaps and strategy documents are too easy to make, can give us tunnel-vision, create inflexibility, and feel like a communication tool for larger companies.

If we….

  1. Have a shared vision
  2. Continually communicate with our customers
  3. Have detailed knowledge of our current product experience
  4. Deep insight into our business performance

Then we can decide what to work on when we finish what we just worked on. What remains is deciding on the time, scope, and budget for the next work period.

Do we know what we should be working on? Is it getting us closer to our vision?

If we’re doing those 4 things above it should be obvious. If it’s not obvious, we need to do the work. Make no mistake, those 4 things are a lot of work and will require discipline to hold ourselves accountable to do them in a high quality way.

Stay tuned for more on our product strategy, where I’ll dive into why we chose to work on certain projects, and how we approach doing the 4 things above.

For our next blog post we’ll be looking at how showing appreciation is different than recognition and its positive effects on you and your team. Check back in every Tuesday to see our latest post.