The Art of Leading with Great Product Strategy

Priydarshan Jha
8 min readJan 11, 2023

What is Product Strategy?

Product strategy is a long-term plan that outlines how a product or product line will be created, positioned, and marketed in order to achieve the goals and objectives of the business and organization.

It involves identifying the problem to solve with the product, the target market and group for the product, establishing the core value proposition, and the product's go-to-market strategy. While leading all these, there needs to be a consideration for multiple business factors such as competitive landscape, changing customer preferences, broader technological and economic environment, etc.

The art of leading great product strategy by Priydarshan Jha. Great Product strategy is challenging. It has risks and pitfalls with a vision of great learning and success.
Product Strategy journey through the challenging roadmap cutting across the dark towards a new light of learning, success, and growth. — Priydarshan Jha

Difference between Product Strategy and Product Management?

Product Strategy is an integral part of the Product Management discipline while being different from day-to-day product management activities.

Non-strategic Product Management is often heavily focused on the day-to-day management of a product or product line, including tasks such as defining and prioritizing features, coordinating with cross-functional teams to ensure that the product is developed and delivered on time and on budget, and gathering and analyzing customer feedback to inform future product development.

While all of this is essential for the successful execution of the Product, it does not meet its purpose for the business and organization; if the Product Strategy is not right.

Why is Product Strategy critical to Product Management?

Fundamentally, Product Management is a problem-solving approach. For the success of the product, business and organization it’s critical to identify the right problem ‘What’ to solve, focus on ‘Who’ to solve for, define the ‘Why’ or the purpose of the product through the value proposition of the solution, ‘Where’ which market to target, ‘How’ what kind of technology, approach, design, etc to use to create the solution, ‘How’ to launch and at ‘What’ price positioning, and many more such aspects.

Applying an effective Product Strategy gives a structured and holistic approach to Product Management.

In short, the Product Strategy helps a business create and maintain a competitive advantage in the market by ensuring that the product meets the needs of the target customers and delivers value to the business. Product Strategy is the constant thrust that gives Product direction while keeping it on track and relevant.

Why do Product Strategies fail?

Despite being so crucial there are situations when one loses sight of Product Strategy and it could be fatal for the Product and the business in the long run. A Product might start with a sound strategy but in the course of the Product Lifecycle, it might start losing the drive of its strategy. Some of the factors causing this phenomenon could be:

  • Inadequate Leadership: Strong and committed leadership is essential for a strong strategy to sustain and evolve. An inadequate leadership practice hampers the product strategy at its roots.
  • Restricted Alignment: Strong alignment with product partners, stakeholders, business collaborators, internal and external environment, customers, etc. creates a conductive product value stream that has the ability of product value maximization. A lack of it results in tarnishing the product strategy.
  • High Volatility: Volatility is the reality of the modern product business ecosystem. A well-designed strategy always factors in these circumstances. However, there are situations when the market, customer, technology, environment, competitor, etc. become so volatile that even a well-designed strategy can not cope with it and needs a major pivot. In recent times, we all witnessed the Covid period presenting such a high level of volatility. As a response, Products and Businesses pivoted to adopt the ‘Digital First’ strategy.
  • Limited Resources: A good strategy needs to be supplied with adequate resources to be able to be applied successfully and deliver the impact. When resources are limited by capability or capacity it turns the product and business focus into a survival mode that pushes the Product Strategy into the back seat.
  • Poor Communication Clarity: Strong communication enhances clarity, direction, visibility, and predictability which adds the much-needed power for the Product Strategy to be in the leading position. However, poor communication clarity puts a drag and creates fatigue for the Product Strategy
  • Constrained Agility: Product Strategy stays strong and relevant through a timely sense of the shifting scenarios and being able to persist or pivot accordingly. This requires a well-coordinated Technology Agility and Business Agility which is not very common for many products, especially during challenging times. Constrained Agility is one of the foundational limiting factors to a great Product Strategy.

Now that the limiting factors for Product Strategy are brought to light; let's discuss how to excel at ‘The Art of Product Strategy’.

How do successful Product Leaders manage winning Product Strategies?

It is cliche yet very true. Great Product Leaders don't do different things, they do things differently while managing winning Product Strategies. That is why Product Strategy is a perfect cocktail of Science and Art. The differentiation is created by the ability of some Product Managers in leading these stages in a balanced manner while keeping the focus on the larger picture undeterred. Here are some of the key focus areas:

  1. Deep Market Sense enables a more accurate and timely understanding of the ongoing changes and PESTLE (Political, Economic, Social, Technological, Legal, and Environment) factors, evolving preferences, and shifting competitive landscape. This contributes towards a more informed and relevant Product Strategy with a higher winning probability. A few key focus areas to build a stronger market sense are:
    Trend and competitor analysis uncovers the market landscape and identify opportunities and threats. Trend analysis involves identifying patterns and changes in the market, assessing the impact of these trends on the planned product, and developing a plan to take advantage of emerging trends. Competitor analysis involves identifying competitors, researching their products, pricing, marketing strategies, and distribution channels, and determining the competitive advantage of the planned product based on the findings.
    Customer segmentation and user persona creation help with narrowing the focus to maximize product market fit. Customer segmentation involves dividing a customer base into smaller groups based on shared characteristics, such as demographics, behavior, and needs. This helps with understanding the different needs and motivations of customers and tailoring the product and marketing efforts accordingly. User personas are fictionalized representations of a company’s ideal customers based on customer segmentation and market research. Empathy helps product managers understand and share the feelings of their customers and create products that truly meet their needs.
  2. Purpose Driven Vision and Direction help in building a common goal and visualizing success to strive for. This enables stronger strategic alignment and enables resilience. A few key avenues toward purpose-driven vision and direction are:
    Value proposition identification, articulation, and emphasis with common as well as differentiating factors for the product partners, stakeholders, business collaborators, customers, users, etc. help build strong alignment which adds so much value in the long run for the product.
    OKR (Objective and Key Results) & roadmap are very powerful mediums to plan and communicate about the aligned vision and value proposition, the steps to be taken towards it, the objectives and milestones to be achieved along the journey, and the defined success criteria measurements that will inform the direction and progress towards the vision.
    Balancing Strategy & Tactics is a tough act. Great Product Leaders are ‘Flexibly Stubborn’. They are stubborn with Vision (Strategy) but flexible on details (Tactics). They are resilient, data-driven, and don't give up easily.
  3. Strong Product Value Stream Orientation ensures the maximization of value delivery and synergy across the organization and partners. A strong product value stream is a series of activities and processes that take a product from conception to delivery efficiently, with high quality and speed. It includes everything from idea generation and market research to design, development, testing, deployment, etc. It adapts to changing market conditions and is essential for businesses to stay competitive and meet customer needs. It requires strong leadership, clear communication, and effective collaboration. A few differentiating characteristics of Strong Product Value Stream Orientation are:
    Value-Based Product Delivery is a method of developing and delivering products that creates value for the customer. It involves identifying valuable features and prioritizing their development and delivery, working closely with customers, and using research and agile development methods. By focusing on value, product managers create products that are more likely to succeed and drive long-term business growth.
    Resourcing and Collaboration across the product value stream put the customer and product value at the center of making such decisions. This enables strategic capability integration across the silos, less friction across the lifecycle stages, and higher product quality by fostering a culture of teamwork and cooperation within the organization.
  4. Systemic Inspect & Adapt is one of the most underrated winning strategies used by successful Product Leaders while doing Product Management. Creating a system that enables a proactive and sustained product culture that values and practices inspect and adapt cycles at the team, product, business, market, etc. levels gives the organic mechanism of data-driven persist or pivot decision making. It is easier said than done as it needs a much larger cultural and mindset shift at all levels that require expert steering, careful nurturing, and time to stably internalize. This is a strategic move and takes time to grow before it blossoms. Once achieved, this results in higher accountability, drive for self-improvement, and democratized decision-making across the product value stream and organization levels.

Additionally, actively managing the factors of Product Strategy failure as elaborated in the earlier section ensures a much higher success probability.

At the end

There is no silver bullet but a set of best practice recommendations with a set of failure points to take caution of. Integrating these two in the right balance has the potential to dramatically enhance the effectiveness of one’s Product Strategy in the game of Product Management.

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About the Author

Priydarshan Jha (PJ) is a Product Leader with a vivid interest in working with People, Processes, and Platforms to create Product First organizations. He expertise in Product Consulting, Product Strategy, Product Management, Product Agile Transformations & Coaching. He is passionate about mentoring and coaching learners in the Product and Agile space.

Connect with Priydarshan on LinkedIn and DM for more in-depth discussions!

Disclaimer:
The views and opinions expressed in this blog post are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the company they have been associated with. The information contained in this post is for professional learning purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional consultation and advice. The author makes no representations or warranties of any kind, express or implied, about the completeness, accuracy, reliability, suitability, or availability with respect to the content of this post. The author will not be liable for any errors or omissions in this information or any losses, damages, or other liabilities that may arise from its use. It is the reader's responsibility to verify the accuracy and reliability of any information provided in this post before relying on it for any purpose.

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Priydarshan Jha

Product Management Leader from Toronto Canada. Expertise in Product Consulting, Product Strategy, Product Management, Product Agile Transformations & Coaching.