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
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.
[Randy Silver / Mind The Product]
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]
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?
[John Cutler / Front]
Do you have any advice on productivity tools for tracking product metrics? I’m seeking guidance on streamlining feedback and metrics management. Juggling continuous discovery insights, team feedback, and metric tracking has become increasingly overwhelming.
[I Manage Products]
Job adverts present a chicken-and-egg problem: they all need you to have product management experience to secure a job, but you don’t yet have a product management job to gain that experience.
Don’t let this discourage you!
[I Manage Products]
Recently I was explaining to a client why I focus my efforts on finding “force multipliers”. These are what I call activities that allow us to extract multiple benefits from a single piece of work. You could think of it a little like a workplace fusion reaction, where the output ends up far greater than the input effort.
[I Manage Products]
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PRODUCTHEAD is a newsletter for product people of all varieties, and is lovingly crafted from lots of ¾ inch holes.
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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