How do you develop your product strategy skills?
I think of this in two ways best conveyed through a sports metaphor: learning new plays I can add to my playbook, and building reps so that I can figure out what the right play is for a given scenario.
For the first, I enjoy reading about strategy – lots of Stratechery, various strategy books, stories of people navigating hard choices with clear tradeoffs, etc.
For the second, nothing beats live reps: getting to make decisions on the field and getting things wrong and learning from your successes & especially your failures, ideally with good coaching & mentorship. I did plenty of that as a founder and have been lucky to have had many reps as a PM over the last few years as well.
In my previous answer, re: finding the right opportunities + making decisions - I mentioned four lenses (Customer, Business, Market, and Technology) as key components of coming up with ideas and making decisions. The best advice I have to offer is to be intentional about spending time developing your muscles in those areas. It can be as simple as picking a product or service in your day-to-day life and thinking through what inputs might have contributed to the experience you’re having as a user.
Additionally, a lot of product strategy is about being able to identify the opportunity that will maximize impact. How will you hone in on the right problem and arrive at an excellent solution? I’ve found that strong problem-solving intrinsics and the ability to make effective decisions are very valuable.
Here are two frameworks I’ve always found helpful:
- - Helps abstract underlying problems/issues
- - Strategy book by the former Procter & Gamble CEO A.G. Lafley
Lastly, communication is essential for being able to get buy-in and execute product strategy. Work on simple, effective communication.
The best way to learn these skills is to practice! Find a mentor who will coach you through the learning process. Key activities will be critical to creating a great product strategy. To name a few:
Spend time understanding your company strategy and how your product(s) fit(s) into the bigger picture.
Analyze sales data to know why you win and lose deals.
Talk to your users to understand what they enjoy about your product and their most significant pain points.
Complete a competitive analysis of your biggest competitors to understand why potential users pick their product instead of yours.
Develop opportunities and create a mechanism to pick the most valuable opportunities for your users.
There are many books and classes that can help you learn PM fundamentals. I like anything by Marty Cagan and Teresa Torres.
Cultivating proficiency in product strategy requires a deliberate and iterative approach. Here's a comprehensive roadmap to help you develop your product strategy skills:
Study Resources: Begin with books, online courses, and articles that delve into product strategy fundamentals. Look for reputable sources that offer insights into market analysis, customer research, competitive landscape, and business models.
Online Courses: Enroll in specialized courses or certifications focused on product management and strategy. Platforms like Coursera, LinkedIn Learning, and Udemy offer valuable resources.
Hands-on Practice: Engage in real-world product strategy projects within your current role or through side projects. Apply theoretical knowledge to practical scenarios, making informed decisions and observing outcomes.
Cross-Functional Collaboration: Collaborate closely with different teams, such as marketing, sales, engineering, and customer support. This exposure provides a holistic view of the product lifecycle and aids in understanding diverse perspectives.
User Research: Develop strong user research skills by conducting interviews, surveys, and usability tests. Gather insights directly from users to inform your strategy and ensure it aligns with their needs.
Customer Journey Mapping: Map out the customer journey to identify pain points, touchpoints, and opportunities for improvement. This helps tailor your strategy to enhance the overall user experience.
Market Analysis and Trend Identification:
Market Research: Sharpen your ability to analyze market trends, industry reports, and competitive landscapes. Understand how external factors impact your product's position and potential.
Emerging Technologies: Stay updated on emerging technologies and trends relevant to your product domain. Anticipating shifts helps you adapt and innovate your strategy.
SWOT Analysis: Practice performing Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats (SWOT) analyses to evaluate your product's internal and external factors.
Critical Thinking: Develop the ability to analyze complex situations, assess potential risks, and identify strategic opportunities.
Communication and Influence:
Storytelling: Hone your storytelling skills to articulate your product strategy effectively. Craft compelling narratives that resonate with stakeholders.
Influencing Skills: Learn to navigate organizational dynamics and gain buy-in from cross-functional teams and executives. Present data-backed arguments and address concerns with confidence.
Networking: Engage in product management communities, attend conferences, and participate in workshops. Connect with industry professionals to exchange insights and learn from their experiences.
Feedback and Adaptation: Seek feedback from mentors, peers, and stakeholders to refine your approach. Embrace adaptability and make iterative improvements to your strategy based on feedback.
Mentorship and Guidance:
Mentorship: Seek mentorship from experienced product managers who can provide guidance, share lessons learned, and offer valuable insights.
Coaching: Consider hiring a coach or consultant specializing in product strategy. They can provide personalized guidance tailored to your growth areas.
By systematically engaging in these steps and consistently seeking opportunities to learn and apply your knowledge, you can progressively enhance your product strategy skills.
Product strategy is about knowing the domain well enough to be able to make bets about where it will go. You can develop this skillset a few ways by investing in sensing mechanisms that build your expertise across:
customer use cases and workflows
economic and buyer motivation
technology advancements and developments
By researching and developing a deep understanding of the context around your product and how those parts move over time, you can gain awareness on how your area will grow over time. This will then inform your plans for how to develop the product in response to user needs, technology advancements, and economic pressures.
Writing strategy docs
Collecting strategy feedback from other people
Monitoring your product metrics to track if your strategy is working
Writing will help you clarify your thinking and give you a draft to "test" mentally against different frameworks and criteria (see my other answer about what makes for a good/strong product strategy).
Feedback: Organizational and company leaders can give you helpful feedback (formally in group reviews, or informally on your drafts). Coworkers with specific functional roles (designers, finance folks, engineers, marketing) can give you valuable perspectives on your proposed strategy. Outside advisors (investors, board members, successful folks and subject-matter experts from your professional network), service providers (like advertising and social media experts), and at times even your best b2b customers can also provide useful perspectives and feedback.
Metrics: Once you're executing on your strategy with product updates in the market, you should start to see behavioral and operational metrics "proof" that your strategy is working. A lack of metrics proof might indicate either the strategy or the execution needs to be changed/improved.