leadership, management

What do you do when the company’s strategy is not clear?

… or when it’s always changing?

You can be in the unfortunate positions where management isn’t making their long-term vision clear. What’s worse is when they’re constantly changing it.

This makes defining a product strategy an exhausting struggle. Certainly, there are things you and the product team know should be worked on. However, without a long-term vision, it’s difficult to know how or where to prioritize engineering and product resources.

Of course, you present you strategic ideas and vision for the product to management. You even bring evidence and customer-backed data. But they fail to identify with what you’re telling them; or simply ignore it because it does match what they believe the goals to be.

So, what do you do when C-Level management does not think the goals of the product team aligns with their strategy?

Let’s take the topic of usability. Say there is a key feature that has some well-defined, painful usability issue. Customers have hounded support about it for some time, which is well documented.

You lay out your case for taking on the issue. You share some potential solutions along with benefits and risks. You also set clear goals and metrics for success.

No surprise to you–as the company’s vision is vague or not clear–management is not on board with your proposal.

This is an aggravating spot to be in. You’ve presented your case, backed with data and a clear path forward. However, since the company’s vision is not clear you were not able to, effectively, read their minds. So, this means, you were not able to present the case in the right way.

Two ways to ‘handle’ management

If management is well established and not subject to change–unlike, in a startup, for example–you have a few options.

1. Leave

This is a real option. You could take everything you experienced as a learning experience. Of course, you need a metric of success you can share in an interview. You need a small “win”–such as persuading a strong-minded person–to show you are able to get people on board.

This is a real option. You could take everything you experienced as a learning experience. Of course, you need a metric of success you can share in an interview. You need a small “win”–such as persuading a strong-minded person–to show you are able to get people on board.

A well-established, poor management team can result in you being stuck in a vicious cycle. But understand that leaving is a drastic decision and should not be taken lightly. Be sure to take a long hard look and understand all the benefits and consequences before taking such an action. Be sure that management truly is not doing their job.

2. Find ways to get management to clarify the long-term vision

This can be difficult. You don’t want to rush into someone’s office demanding they clarify themselves. You need to be tactful. You need to ask probing questions that get at the “why” of something. Strategy lives upstream which is where you need to persuade management to take you. Helping them realize that once you have an understanding of the vision you’ll better be able to drive the product vision.

A good way to do this is to tell management that you want to fully understand their needs and desires. Treat it like a customer discovery process. Try to truly empathize with them. You’ll realize they are just people who have the same issues we all do.

Tell leadership that without a vision or strategy or objectives that it’s your responsibility to your team and customers to fill in the gaps to move forward in a way that you know is best or reasonable or data-drive.

Remember…

Product Management is not a perfunctory role. You are not there to move a handoff from management to the product and development team members. What good or service would that provide? It would be of little value.

You’re there to discover the “why” of things coming your way so you can also know what things to go to. E.g. A new feature may be presented by management with the goal of solving dunning issues (explain dunning). You should be asking “why” so you understand the problem.

Photo by Startup Stock Photos from Pexels

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