Level up: how to align your team around a meaningful and actionable long-term goal for your product strategy
A common activity when creating a product strategy is setting the vision or the long-term goal. This is a crucial milestone that will set the tone for the following actions.
But is your team aligned around your product strategy? Are you sure everyone in fact understands what success looks like when the strategy's goal is achieved?
A vision statement can be powerful. Yet, because of its synthetic nature, it's not rare that each member of the company, or at least each team, has a different understanding of it. People use individual lenses to make sense of the goal, and that’s perfectly natural because they need to translate the vision into something more tangible, a plan for their day-to-day challenges.
“Strategic planning is worthless — unless there is first a strategic vision.” — John Naisbitt
So how to keep teams aligned even with diverse ways of understanding the ultimate goal?
A fun activity can expand your next long-term goal exercise to get more clarity in an engaging way (think about a product strategy workshop or a design sprint).
Think about this scenario: Your team has crushed its goals and the product is such a success that it will be featured on the cover of a magazine!
How does it feel? What does that cover look like? What does the headline say?
Getting your team to project themselves into that successful future helps them put into focus what they are really trying to achieve.
And that's what the activity "Future Cover Headline" is all about: a collaborative way for the team to explore the different variants of the vision before defining the long-term goal.
“Our vision is only actionable if we share it. Without sharing, it’s just a figment of our imagination.” — Simon Sinek
Future Cover Headline
To level-up reflections and contributions around the long-term goal of a product strategy - in a fun and participative way.
🔎 How it works
Put your team together and envision the product or company in the future after the goals are successfully met.
They’ll have to imagine the Cover Headlines of various magazines where the product/company is featured after success.
Thinking about headlines assures people will extract the essence of their achievement.
- Define the timeframe you want the team to think about. Does it run into the distant future(10 or 20 years from now) to inspire the company's purpose? Or is it product-oriented with a Design Sprint long-term goal (two years from now) in mind? The time frame can be anything you want; just make it clear for the group beforehand.
- Choose three to four publications (magazines, newspapers, blogs, etc.) that can represent different areas of success for the product (or company). Consider using different lenses to measure success. There are all sorts of different angles that each publication has. Ponder how Discover, Fast Company, Forbes, Inc., National Geographic, Nature, The Economist, Wall Street Journal, Wired, etc. are different from each other. And, depending on your market you’ll still have industry-specific publications that you might want to consider (agrotech, edtech, fashion, healthcare, insurance, supply chain, etc.). You get the point. Just don’t choose publications that are too similar to each other; select a medley of media that will provoke different ways of thinking.
→ remember that the choices will alter the outcome of the exercise.
1️⃣ Give each participant a piece of paper printed with all four covers you’ve chosen (real examples work best);
2️⃣ Individually, they will write down two to three cover headlines for each publication, one headline per sticky note (I recommend you use the rectangular yellow ones);
3️⃣ Each participant chooses one headline per publication to share, reads it out loud, and sticks the note on the wall under the specific cover (imagine a wall or virtual whiteboard with the image of each one of the publications so that people can put their sticky notes underneath it);
4️⃣ After everyone has shared their future headlines, it’s time to choose the ones that best represent the goals. Use a straw poll voting method:
- Each participant (except the decider) receives four green sticky dots with their initials on them.
- In silence, they choose one headline for each publication and write down their reasons for that choice.
- Then, simultaneously, they place their votes on their desired headline, and one by one just read out loud their reasoning (without taking questions or going off-script) so everyone can understand the choices.
5️⃣ The decider now chooses which headline will represent each publication. They rewrite the chosen headline on a rectangular green sticky note to clarify that it is the final version. At this time, the decider can include an element of another sticky note that wasn’t selected — but bear in mind that it still needs to be appealing as a headline (it's important not to try to blend all the information together to please everyone).
Now you have led the team through a reflection of what the future will look like after the goals are achieved, exploring different angles of impact in a fun and participative way.
You can then move on to the Long-Term Goal exercise that synthesizes the overall vision into one single statement. It'll be more thoughtful and with different outcomes than what you've seen before. Also, this exercise will prompt consideration of trade-offs. For example: "Is it possible to be successful on the commercial side and kind to the planet side simultaneously?". These will generate good insights for your "Can we?" questions.
- Always show real examples of covers to help people understand what a headline is about. Remember people are not creative writers by nature, so it's a good way to warm up.
- Stimulate the team to think about the achieved success as the source of the headline. Dreams are good, but a headline about conquering the world will not be helpful if the product is still on the drawing board.
- Headlines are about the impact on people's lives. Think about relatable content. Put yourself in the reader's shoes and ultimately be human-centered.
If you have questions about this method or are interested in understanding how this can relate to your Product Strategy, don't hesitate in commenting and getting in contact.
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