Product Strategy: the Diagnosis

So you’re constructing your product strategy. You know your purpose. You know how to identify bad strategy. And you know the kernel of a good strategy: the diagnosis, the guiding policy, and the set of coherent actions.

Let’s continue to follow Richard Rumelt’s Good Strategy, Bad Strategy framework as he digs in to the diagnosis. Quote:

“After my colleague John Mamer stepped down as dean of the UCLA Anderson School of Management, he wanted to take a stab at teaching strategy. To acquaint himself with the subject, he sat in on ten of my class sessions. Somewhere around class number seven we were chatting about pedagogy and I noted that many of the lessons learned in a strategy course come in the form of the questions asked as study assignments and asked in class. These questions distill decades of experience about useful things to think about in exploring complex situations. John gave me a sidelong look and said, “It looks to me as if there is really only one question you are asking in each case. That question is ‘What’s going on here?’ ”

“John’s comment was something I had never heard said explicitly, but it was instantly and obviously correct. A great deal of strategy work is trying to figure out what is going on. Not just deciding what to do, but the more fundamental problem of comprehending the situation.

“At a minimum, a diagnosis names or classifies the situation, linking facts into patterns and suggesting that more attention be paid to some issues and less to others. An especially insightful diagnosis can transform one’s view of the situation, bringing a radically different perspective to bear. When a diagnosis classifies the situation as a certain type, it opens access to knowledge about how analogous situations were handled in the past. An explicit diagnosis permits one to evaluate the rest of the strategy. Additionally, making the diagnosis an explicit element of the strategy allows the rest of the strategy to be revisited and changed as circumstances change.”

Next: read about the guiding policy.