Swinging between strategy and tactics as a Product Manager

Swinging between strategy and tactics needs to be well co-ordinated.

We recently had our CEO come down from silicon valley and meet our entire India team and guide us over the vision, the long-term strategy of the business, how not to lose your sleep over competitors, and many important and interesting things.

As someone who’s been an entrepreneur, I instantly get into the strategy mode, but is it the right thing??

Of course not, according to me a successful strategy is the result of continuous hard work in aligning the team, doing 100s if not thousands of experiments, and then one fine day waking up to massive numbers which you’ve gained to your count of customers, revenue and profits.

As John Hanke, the founder of Pokemon Go said, “It takes 20 years to make an overnight success”

And that’s when you can say your strategy has really worked.

So having a strategy and putting all the efforts to make it a success is only one part but the remaining half which is way more important is to be tactical and implement it really really well.

Before I overuse strategy and tactics jargon, Let’s understand the difference between strategy and tactics with an example.

Strategy is like deciding to choose a certain mountain to climb and tactics is like deciding which route to select out of many routes available to get there and plan each step and course correct actions on the same.

Difference between strategy and tactics can easily be understood using above

As you can see in the above table tactics are short-term, easy to copy, and mostly set out day-to-day plans to get things done,

Now when you say tactics are easy to copy how do you make sure, your tactics deliver better results than others, the answer to that is
1. Team Alignment and
2. Execution speed

Let’s dive deeper to understand each of those,

1. Team Alignment

Like the above, if you have some of your teammate's building tires for trucks and some are building engines of a hatchback the output car is not going to work!

Similarly, if some of your teammates are not aligned with the goal you’re trying to achieve, you’re going to fail,

The beauty of tactics is, that it’s going to keep improvising,
So one quarter your goal could be to gain more customers another quarter it could be to launch features to match your competitors. And hence it’s critical that you keep aligning your team to each of your goal and only that alignment will deliver a holistic approach towards goals.

Even if your overall goal fails to match the set-out expectations the failure would be a less damaging one because everyone was on the same page and they can March to the next goal faster

How do you achieve or improve team alignment?

After discussing the alignment nuances let’s discuss how can we improve it,

A. Importance of context sharing and reiterating the same across different groups of your teams.

You need to keep repeating the “why” and “whom” as part of the context and let the team figure out “how” only this will energize them to strive hard to find how and that’s their kick. Respect and preserve that kick.

B. Work alongside your team end to end.

It’s not enough to just pass on the context and leave your team, you need to be building with them, course correct, and really help them build a strong understanding and develop a perspective. Only when you do that you start seeing the alignment doing it’s magic.

Keep repeating the above for each of your goals.

2. Execution speed

Execution speed can be tricky, sometimes it will be a sprint and sometimes a marathon and hence you need to decide gears accordingly.

The onus will still lie on your to pick up whether to run a sprint first or a marathon. If you’re running a sprint you need to pick teammates who are good at sprint running and similarly for the marathon.

Let’s understand how can we improve the execution speed

A. Divide the work

We always make the mistake of looking at our goals from 40,000 feet and we need to take a radical approach to come down to a 100 feet level and that’s when things start looking much clear and doable. 100 feet of clarity will give you the confidence to get it done much faster because you have broken it down into much simpler objectives to achieve so it does not feel overwhelming. Always make your you divide way before you even start the conquer.

B. Divide the teams

Real power of teams comes from separating into smaller groups and getting things done, when you bring your approach to 100 ft level from 40k feel it’s equally important to break down the teams as per their strengths for that goal. Many times people make the mistake of diving the work but deploying a large team and that’s where shit goes north.

Now when you take a look at both of the above frameworks they need to be followed with the same chronology as alignment is important before you execute.

Above learning may seem pretty straightforward but it has come to me after many failures and mistakes.

Do share what you think about the same and how you apply it in your work.

cheers.

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Suraj Saste

Suraj Saste

Sr PM @Avoma || Entrepreneur, Engineer || Ex Co-founder Quark Exp | Co-founder Aker Foods | Aker Retail