Updated: Jul 23, 2020
The introduction of new agile methodologies, continuous integration / deployment and better-connected resources means that teams are able to execute work faster than ever before.
But how do we know we’re not just moving even quicker in completely the wrong direction?
This is a question that frequently comes up when working with our clients - particularly around quarterly or annual planning cycles.
And I can completely relate.
As a former product leader, better strategic planning and visibility was one of the reasons I implemented Aha! within my product team.
“Without strategy, execution is aimless. Without execution, strategy is useless.” - Morris Chang
Here is how I use Aha! to help define strategic direction and clarity.
1. Identify common issues across the business
Conduct reviews with leadership (and ideally the C-suite) across every area of the business
Get them to identify issues, pain points and the economic & business challenges that impact them
List and centrally document this information into Aha! notes then build out Aha! models (SWOT), competitor and persona information
Identify common metrics / KPIs / OKRs within and across business areas and record in your goal success metrics
Re-share and periodically revalidate with stakeholders to ensure the information is accurate and contemporary
2. Identify common patterns in your current roadmap
Review existing tactical work. Identify common themes, issues, capabilities or patterns that could be captured as higher-level strategic imperatives
Group stories into user journeys. Map user journeys into product experiences. Group product experiences into strategic initiatives
3. Define strategic imperatives
Aha! is a world-class system for linking the “Why” (Strategy) with the “What” (Execution) so make sure you are maximising everything it has to offer.
Identify your Goals which are your “Strategic what”. They should be SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time Bound) with clear quantifiable success metrics. Many goals will have already been identified in the stakeholder interviews. Add a custom “user” field to goal records to identify an owner (not a default field)
Establish the Initiatives or the “Strategic When”. These are the longer-term themes spanning releases, products or both. Initiatives group your tactical work (Features / Releases) and align them to your goals. Assign initiatives to owners for accountability.
Both goals and initiative records can live within line or workspace levels and at every stage of your product hierarchy. Leverage the “rollup up” functionality in Aha! to provide the golden thread of strategy. Either start top down, bottom up or even a bit of both until they meet in the middle.
4. Create and share strategic roadmaps
Create strategic roadmaps and reports, indicating status and progress and updates on metrics
Communicate often using Aha! presentations and get feedback from the organisation to help them feel bought into the process
Hold yourselves to account. Even if you are out-of-bounds initially, it will force the change to think more strategically. Much of this is about mindset. Ensure you have a frequent opportunity to set and reset expectations, to know what is achievable and ensure you are moving towards a common trajectory
Periodically monitor progress by putting in place a review session to measure and record progress with the team and stakeholders. You could even plan these in Aha!
5. Bake strategic planning into your working practices
Carve out time for intentional strategic thinking / alignment as part of your product delivery process - even a couple of hours is better than nothing at all
The best time to schedule strategic planning is when you are doing something other than just “development” such as a short phase at the beginning of every Aha! release
For delivery focused teams this could be in-between sprints or built in as part of the Aha! Feature status workflow
Agree the alignment to strategy and how it will be measured before the execution starts, preferably with the wider stakeholder community
Your team may already be employing one or two of the concepts above but baking more of them into your operations and being more intentional on the approach will help to deliver a more meaningful and far reaching strategy that the entire company can get behind.