PRODUCTHEAD: In search of deeper alignment

PRODUCTHEAD: In search of deeper alignment

PRODUCTHEAD is a regular newsletter of product management goodness,
curated by Jock Busuttil.

everything in its right product #

every PRODUCTHEAD edition is online for you to refer back to


A precursor to alignment is a clear product strategy

Alignment needs you to tell the same story over and over

Creating an assumption map can help to verify whether the team is actually aligned


We talk about alignment all the time in product management. The nuance for me this week has been the difference between superficial and deep alignment.

I’m defining superficial alignment as when everyone is at least using similar words to describe the same goal, strategy or desired outcome. Deep alignment is when everyone understands the intent behind the words sufficiently to be working towards the same thing.

Superficial alignment #

It can sometimes be hard enough simply to achieve even superficial alignment. I see this in situations where strategy is absent entirely or so woolly that every senior leader fills the gap with their own plan of action, which all inevitably pull in different directions.

But even if you do get everyone using the same words, it’s all too easy for people to interpret the same words differently. Sometimes they’ve each experienced the same thing differently in the past, and they each naturally assume it will be the same again.

Sometimes they just really, really want the outcome to be something else, and twist the meaning of the words to suit. If you’ve ever been in an argument with someone and they’ve uttered the irritating phrase “we’re violently agreeing,” this can indicate an underlying mismatch in intent, despite the similar words being used.

Hence superficial alignment. Everyone is saying the same thing but intending something different.

Deep alignment #

In addition to using the same words, achieving deep alignment means everyone understands the desired set of actions, the intended outcome, and what likely effects — and trade-offs — that course of action and outcome will have.

Imagine you have a couch-bound friend who has resolved to get fit and they want your help. Superficial alignment means you and your friend are both talking about doing more exercise together.

Deep alignment means you both understand how fit your friend wants to get and for what purpose. It also means your friend understands that they’re going to have to make some lifestyle changes as trade-offs to achieve that goal, such as forming a regular exercise habit and eating fewer chocolate profiteroles.

Final thoughts #

Even if you and your team, your stakeholders, your senior management team are all saying the same words, how can you check for deep alignment?

For you this week #

I’m continuing the theme of alignment in my curated content for you this week.

At Mind The Product’s London conference in 2023, Randy Silver took the stage to talk about the challenges and his approaches to achieve better alignment with the senior executive team.

Guru of product-led growth Leah Tharin maps out her framework for good alignment in three levels in a partially-paywalled article.

I’ve also found you a great talk from John Cutler highlighting some practical exercises you can run with your team to achieve more meaningful alignment.

Speak to you soon,


what to think about this week

Getting aligned with your exec team

In his keynote session at #mtpcon London 2023, Randy Silver, Product and Leadership Coach led an engaging session on navigating challenges when dealing with executives as a product manager.

Prioritisation, people and processes

[Randy Silver / Mind The Product]

Why “alignment” makes and breaks great leaders

What do I expect from any leader and product manager when I say their main responsibility is to “align”? Let’s map it out.

A shared understanding of where we want to go and how [partially paywalled]

[Leah Tharin / Leah’s ProducTea]

Towards meaningful (and actionable) alignment

Building shared understanding is hard work. Ironically, it is our most passionate team members that complicate the challenge. They crave coherence, a powerful Why, and a flexible environment for solutioning. How do we get everyone on the “same page” without glossing over the nuance, and stifling innovation?

Discussion and practical exercises

[John Cutler / Front]

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can we help you?

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Helping people build better products, more successfully, since 2012.

PRODUCTHEAD is a newsletter for product people of all varieties, and is lovingly crafted from lots of ¾ inch holes.

Read more from Jock

The Practitioner's Guide to Product Management book cover

The Practitioner's Guide To Product Management

by Jock Busuttil

“This is a great book for Product Managers or those considering a career in Product Management.”

— Lyndsay Denton

Jock Busuttil is a product management and leadership coach, product leader and author. He has spent over two decades working with technology companies to improve their product management practices, from startups to multinationals. In 2012 Jock founded Product People Limited, which provides product management consultancy, coaching and training. Its clients include BBC, University of Cambridge, Ometria, Prolific and the UK’s Ministry of Justice and Government Digital Service (GDS). Jock holds a master’s degree in Classics from the University of Cambridge. He is the author of the popular book The Practitioner’s Guide To Product Management, which was published in January 2015 by Grand Central Publishing in the US and Piatkus in the UK. He writes the blog I Manage Products and weekly product management newsletter PRODUCTHEAD. You can find him on Mastodon, X (formerly Twitter) and LinkedIn.

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