Why No One Cares About Your Product Strategy

Recognize this scenario? You join the product team at the annual offsite to work on next year's strategy. The location is somewhere expensive and beautiful. Unfortunately, you hardly ever leave the conference room.

The group returns exhausted from the 48-hour huddle with the "master plan" in hand. (And for some, with an even more inflated sense of self-importance.) And then everyone promptly forgets about it.

Everyone forgets about it until the end of the fiscal year when it's time to review the roadmap and account for what was accomplished. So you scramble to answer the question: "How are we delivering against that thing we talked about at the offsite last year?"

Oh yes, that thing -- the strategy. We should probably take a look at that.

Well, it's no surprise your strategy is not working. Why? Because no one seems to care about it.

Every organization understands the importance of strategy. But it is too often treated as one more to-do to check off, filed away as more proof of the team's smart planning and ability to bring a differentiated product to market.

Here are a few reasons why your team is not giving strategy a second thought:

Was the strategy hurriedly pieced together by a privileged few over a two-day meeting -- instead of being the culmination of a thoughtful process with input from the team? Strategy should be something that you think about at some level each day. (Long before and long after the offsite meeting is over.) 

Did you lock your strategy work away in a precious document intended only for the inner circle? You have to share your vision with the people accomplishing the work and helping customers every day. You need to be transparent with the details and be able to explain it so everyone understands what they are working towards. Hiding it away helps no one.

This also happens if your strategy was developed behind closed doors. If others feel left out of the process, they will have no reason to get excited about it. Your team deserves the opportunity to understand your thinking and share their thoughts. That way they will share ownership and feel a responsibility to fulfill it.

Once annual planning is complete, what happens to the strategy? Did it become a PowerPoint souvenir left to gather dust? Out of sight, out of mind -- people forget about it until the next fire drill. That is because no one is making the effort to set meaningful goals or initiatives that will bring that strategy to life and be used on a daily basis. Set an example and take the next step.

Knowing you need to invest in a strategic approach is a good start. But it is only the beginning. If you want people to care about it, you have to share it and make it a priority -- for everyone.

Strategy should inform your every move -- you should live and breathe it every day. The entire organization should not only know about it, they should be able to recite the vision and the goals by memory. Over time, it should become as familiar as a friend.

It is only when you decide to put that strategy into action that it can do its work -- transforming your business.