Douglas G Stuart

Product strategy & design

How do you make a good product?

Part 2: A better strategy to make good products

The strategic process we use to map a high level vision down to tangible products is called a Lean Value Tree. This ensures that everything that gets built can ladder up to real, tangible goals that move an organization toward its vision.

In the lean value tree, the vision sits at the top. It sets the guiding direction toward which all investments should contribute.

Vision sets the guiding direction toward which all investments should contribute.
I have a metaphor I use to help illustrate how this process works. In my metaphor, I imagine the leader of an island nation with a vision for his people. He imagines these people are better citizens when they are open-minded, and understand other cultures.

An organization moves ever closer toward its vision by achieving goals set by business drivers to deliver toward the vision. These goals are not programs of work, but outcomes the business must achieve to realize its vision. Goals are big, and typically live for a few years before being completed or deprioritized.

Goals set by business drivers to deliver toward the vision.
In our metaphor, the leader and his leadership council set up some goals toward achieving that vision. One of these goals is that every citizen should have opportunities to learn from other cultures.

Goals are further broken down into strategic bets. Bets are different ways in which the Goal might be achieved. Again these are outcome-oriented portfolios, and considerably smaller and more specific.

Bets are different ways in which the Goal might be achieved.
The citizens, eager to enact this goal, come up with bets. Someone suggests remote communication via satellites. Another thinks it would be good to bring foreign art and literature to their island. Yet another thinks the best way to understand other people is to interact with them in person, and wants to set up travel opportunities.

Finally, bets are broken down into a portfolio of initiatives which are clearly defined in terms of the tangible value they deliver. These initiatives have specific customer outcomes and business needs. These initiatives are small enough to be assigned to a product team for action.

Initiatives are clearly defined in terms of the tangible value they deliver.
Some people like the travel opportunity idea. They go off and set up a number of different initiatives to test that bet. Some people set up ferries to get people off of the island. Others build a small airline. Others get to work building a bridge.

And now we have multiple initiatives being built to serve a number of bets with an eye toward achieving a goal. In the case of our metaphor, we have people working to literally bridge a gap between themselves and others.

© 2021