🛠️ How to Avoid Alibi Progress


⭐️ This is the last newsletter before my annual holiday writing break. After today's issue, this newsletter will return on February 2nd! ⭐

How to Avoid Alibi Progress

READ ON

HERBIG.CO

PUBLISHED

Dec 15, 2023

READING TIME

5 min & 32 sec

​Dear Reader,​

When feeling stuck in alibi progress, teams try to dig deeper into whatever domain they’re stuck with.

Examples for staying in motion without making progress: Try talking to more users to unlock “the one insight” that will make you believe a problem is worth solving. Rewrite your lagging OKRs after reading another thought leaders' book. Or translate your ambiguous product strategy into another canvas, hoping it will make it more tangible.

The funny thing about individual practices is that they may „fix“ one aspect of your work but often reveal gaps in at least two other areas.

You might hear about real customer problems in one of your interviews but lack the clarity from your Strategy to decide whether it‘s a problem you should prioritize.

You might feel good about what you should work on during the next sprint based on your freshly defined OKRs, but start to question the validity of the user problem behind the Outcome goal, as nothing you ship seems to move the needle.

You might feel confident about certain market choices and differentiation in your strategy by looking at the results from the last strategy workshop. Still, you need help translating these choices into action and wonder if you made any progress six months from now.

How to Get Started

It‘s vital not to overthink what else „has to be in place“ before you can get to work. Let’s face it: There will never be a perfect time to start with Product Discovery. There will always be distractions and other priorities for you to deal with.

It’s easy to feel like you need to wait until there’s enough buy-in, a perfect product strategy, better OKRs, etc. But as Product Managers, you have the responsibility to own the process of creating better conditions for real progress. And you can do this easily when you have the right tools at your disposal.

Focusing on connecting the dots you have based on principles of what creates value for you and your team supports you in taking the first steps toward making progress-first practices an integral part of your work. No matter where you work.

Remember, all your practices are only the means to the larger end of driving business results by solving meaningful user problems. Picking practices is about choosing what you will do.

How OKRs and Discovery Support Strategy

When you feel like your Strategy is built on top of wobbly Jenga stones, you might miss the stability of Discovery insights about audiences, their jobs, the alternatives to your offering, and how de-risked your value propositions are.

When you feel that you‘re not progressing toward implementing your strategy, you lack a translation of your choices into tangible goals that guide product teams on their journey of learning and iterating.


How Strategy and Discovery support OKRs

When the start of writing OKRs feels like Groundhog Day because you‘re repeating the same generic KPIs as last quarter, you lack specificity from Product Strategy Choices.

And when you feel like guessing what changes in customer behavior you should drive, you lack the proven user problems worth solving to guide the overarching business goals through vital Product Discovery insights.

How OKRs and Strategy Support Discovery

When you feel lost in outlining your Discovery priorities and feel like you should simply solve all users' problems, you need to understand the guardrails of strategy choices of where to play and the assumptions of how to win that need to be derisked.

In 2024, I will put an even stronger emphasis on connecting the dots of Strategy, OKRs, and Discovery so teams can avoid getting lost in alibi progress and focus on practices that help them make real progress.

There may even be more long long-form writing in the works. 🤫

Don't want to wait until February 2nd for new content? ​Click here to receive my most popular Product Strategy essays on auto-pilot.​

Thank you for Practicing Product,

Tim

If you Attend One Product Conference
in 2024, Make it this one!

I might be biased, but I believe the combination of two true product people pouring their hearts (pun intended) into curating a kick-ass speaker line-up, a vibrant local product community, AND Hamburg during (late) summer is an unbeatable combination. The 2024 Product at Heart conference shapes up to be epic, and you should definitely consider it for your 2024 travel and budget plans.

Content I found Practical This Week

Guide to determine the first version of a new product or feature

The goal is usually to reduce the ambiguity around the product problem and solution so that you are not building an MVP/MVF, but instead doing phased delivery. This is a type of development where you have a strong vision and the problem and solution are validated, so the goal is to build toward that desired vision, and release incrementally as valuable pieces of that vision are complete. MVP’s and MVF’s are to prove that our ideas actually solve a problem. If we prove that, we typically need to invest a lot more to reach the potential of the product or feature idea. Rarely do MVP’s or MVF’s crush expectations out the gate.

Revenue Goals are Not Company Strategies

Pure revenue may be helpful for the Sales organization, since they probably need to hire 35% more account teams each year. And possibly helpful to Finance, responding to investors’ demands for a hypothetical 2-year cash flow forecast. But it’s of zero help to Product, Engineering, Marketing, or other organizations that need to make choices about the few critical things we’ll do next year. (And the 9000 things we won’t do.) Once-a-year planning lives at the intersection of “we can accurately predict the future in spite of all evidence” and “we’re an agile organization, so we can adapt to daily changes in our market even though we committed a detailed plan to the Board.”

When You Should Not Listen to Your Customers

The best generative research is user-centric, not product-centric. Users’ lives do not revolve around our products, so all our interview questions should not revolve around our products either. Ask about context and workflows instead of features and bells. Some unvoiced product-specific problems can be detected from analytics. For example, a high abandonment rate during onboarding is a good indication that something is not working. However, it is important to understand that product analytics is not a silver bullet. Product data can tell you what people are doing, but not why they are doing it or how they are feeling about it.

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Who is Tim Herbig?

As a Product Management Coach, I guide Product Teams to measure the progress of their evidence-informed decisions.

I identify and share the patterns among better practices to connect the dots of Product Strategy, Product OKRs, and Product Discovery.

Here are a few ways we can work together:

Learn through my free, in-depth Product Strategy, Product OKRs, or Product Discovery content libraries.

Hire me to work with you or your team(s) 1:1 in workshops or coaching.

Product Practice Newsletter

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