Product Management is changing.
Initially, Product Managers were only expected to manage the products that were already in the market (Horizon 1).
Over the last 20 years, Product Managers have moved from managing products to becoming drivers of change, orchestrating development for ideas that are yet to go to market (Horizon 2). This is a direct result of the digital transformation that has given ubiquitous access to internet and mobile services (and much more).
We are now on the cusp of the next evolution of Product Management. This is being driven by the science fiction-like changes that are presenting themselves in our current world. We now live in a world where we co-exist with artificial intelligence, the first self-driving cars, virtualised and distributed workplaces, personal 3D printing machines and so much more. Among these, we are enduring world-changing disruptions in the form of pandemics and conflict that will forever transform our experience.
It is in the face of this change that Product Management must now also embrace “future” products. Largely, the time scales that we use to consider for Horizon 3 initiatives have been compressed to the present day.
To help us frame this journey into an uncertain future, we will be guided by the time-tested rules of nautical voyage planning. The rules of voyage planning allow a ship to set sail on a voyage to a land it’s never seen before and arrive safely at that chosen destination.
The Product Navigation Framework comprises the following steps:
Arrive is the sixth and final step in the Product Navigation Framework. The Voyagers have arrived at last at our final destination. It’s time to celebrate! The hard work of Voyaging, the big and small bets placed, and the many micro-decisions made along the way, have finally paid off.
What is it?
Arrive is the point of recognition that celebrates a Horizon 3 challenge achieved. The organisation is ready to launch something meaningful that will change the world and our customers’ lives.
Take that well deserved moment and celebrate the successful voyage with the team and organisation. We’ve grown new skills and capabilities and learnt many lessons. It’s time to share the learnings and shepherd the solution to a team that can continue to nurture its customers and lifecycle. It’s also time for the organisation to consider its future again and make new decisions.
The goal of Arrive is to celebrate and integrate the new solution into Horizon 1’s lifecycle. But, there are also big decisions to be made in Arrive. The organisation has to decide if it should go on to place another Horizon 3 bet soon after its arrival, or focus its capital solely on driving a return on its new investment. There are many options to choose from.
How do we Arrive?
- Celebrate – the successful completion of the journey
- Integrate – the new solution into Horizon 1’s lifecycle
- Choose – the next step in the organisation’s future
We know we’ve arrived when we can demonstrate and show evidence that we’ve reached our final destination.
We will offer a carbon & plastic net-zero shopping experience by 2030 in all our stores to reduce the impact of shopping on the planet. If we don’t significantly reduce carbon and plastic waste, the earth’s temperatures will rise and waste will continue to build up. If we do not offer this future, our customers will find alternative solutions, our revenues will diminish and our organisation may become obsolete.
We will re-use our waste to create renewable packaging that does not depend on natural gas and petroleum. This will create an additional revenue stream, re-use the waste we create and encourage suppliers to use packaging with lower environmental impact.
More specifically, this means that Voyagers have assessed the final destination’s measurables and can confidently confirm their Arrival to key stakeholders.
At least 10% of the organisation’s waste is being collected for the purpose of manufacturing the new renewable plastics
At least 80% of the weight of the renewable plastics are composed from the collected waste
After which, it’s time to officially announce and launch the new solution to the marketplace.
- Make It Public
A planned public announcement and acknowledgement is the culmination of hard work. It is an opportunity to make the invisible visible and demonstrate the outcomes delivered. The organisation is exhibiting its ability to build innovative, valuable solutions for the market and to remain ahead of change. This engenders trust, builds a higher profile for the organisation, and – later on – grows future revenue streams.
Voyagers will need to enlist the help of the Marketing, Communications and/or Launch teams to prepare an Arrival Plan. Like any Plan, consider the organisation’s intentions, the target audience and their motivations for knowing or learning about the new solution, then craft a compelling story that will draw their attention.
This planning should not be left to the last minute, it takes time to craft a narrative that is fit for purpose. Ideally these teams will have been stakeholders in Voyage; if not, engage with them as early as possible to ensure adequate time to craft a good Arrival Plan.
- Applaud The Outcome
It is important to praise the results of the team who worked tirelessly in uncertain environments across a long timescale. Each individual in the team should be acknowledged and rewarded for their contribution.
But, it is equally important to applaud the whole organisation. The organisation made a big bet and the decision to embark on a risky journey should also be celebrated.
While Voyagers experienced challenges first-hand, the whole of the organisation offered Voyagers the time to explore, as well as the organisational capital required to initiate and continue the journey to the final destination.
Celebrating risk taking is imperative, especially if the organisation wants to remain in a strong position to face the next wave of change. This helps to ensure that others in the organisation with new ideas are more willing to embark on future voyages.
- Share The Learnings
Voyagers, as well as other teams in the organisation, will have many learnings to share. Celebrating well means reflecting on the journey, and understanding the challenges undertaken and the mistakes made. Don’t gloss over the failures and mistakes by only focusing on the successes. Often the best lessons can be learnt from what didn’t work. Encourage open sharing and documentation of these to assist with future Voyages.
Some ways to collect and share learnings are:
- Conduct one-on-one interviews across the organisation to derive the learnings from occasional participants, those who supported the journey, and those who were bystanders. Socialise insights from these interviews as summaries or presentations across the organisation.
- For Voyagers, conduct day-long retrospective sessions, going beyond the typical sprint retrospective questions to review the Voyage Scorecard and evaluate the path taken to reach each milestone. Socialise insights from these sessions as reports or presentations across the organisation.
- Have Voyagers share internal blogs, vlogs or other content across the company. Get several perspectives, asking Voyagers who had differing roles to share their stories. Individuals sharing their stories helps to humanise the Voyage, and show how individuals contribute to the bigger journey.
Plenty of data, some of which may be conflicting, will be produced as a result of this sharing. This reveals the nature of innovation, not a straight line, but a heroic act. Sharing of learnings begins the case for the organisation’s next journey.
To derive a return on this significant investment, the solution must be integrated into Horizon 1, where teams will iterate and improve on it. Horizon 1 Product Management teams will have the processes, the capability and the focus to continually deliver on the vision articulated in the final destination, as well as identify and derive new commercial opportunities from the solution.
To transition a Horizon 3 solution to Horizon 1 requires these prerequisites for success:
- A product leader who will re-establish the vision articulated in the final destination and produce a more suitable vision for Horizon 1.
- A product strategy and a supporting roadmap that outlines the path to achieving the Horizon 1 vision.
- A review and potentially re-engineering of product processes to assimilate the new solution.
- Horizon 1 teams with the right skills and capabilities who understand and work with the new solution.
- A knowledge transfer process from Horizon 3 Voyagers to Horizon 1 team members.
Knowledge transfer should include more than documentation, though the artefacts created along the way will be useful. Continued access to previous Voyagers, partners, research and insights from the journey undertaken will be essential, and it may be possible that some Voyagers may want to stay on and join the Horizon 1 team, but your integration should not rely on this.
By now, Voyagers and the organisation may well have decision fatigue, but there is one more decision to be made before the journey ends. The organisation has to make a choice about where next to invest its time and resources.
There are a myriad of possible options to choose, but making this decision after a long journey is dependent on the organisation’s long term objectives, its risk appetite, and the state of the market. Some options may be to focus on:
- Horizon 1 only – Focus attention and investment on growing the new solution for the foreseeable future.
- Horizon 1 & 2 – Split resources and investment on identifying a number of smaller bets while simultaneously growing the new solution.
- Horizon 1 & 3 – Split resources and investment to focus on growing the new solution and returning to Gaze to identify and invest in the next big bet.
Without making a definite choice, the organisation may either over commit or miss the opportunities available to it now that the new solution is in place.
- Make Use Of Decision Tools
It is impossible to predict the future, but decision making tools can aid the process and help to overcome some of the organisation’s inherent biases.
Use a Decision Tree to map out the options, and then the risks and consequences of each option. Detailing the various options in a tree format enables the organisation to ‘zoom out’ and to grasp the impacts of decisions before they are made. Overlay the Decision Tree with expected returns and the costs associated with each option to gain a better investment perspective. This will help the organisation compare the consequences of different courses of action and make a choice.
Only once a choice has been made for the future can the organisation and the Voyagers call this journey to an end.
A Final Word For Product Management
There is much to digest in the Product Navigation Framework. It is also somewhat uncomfortable as it is unlike our current approaches which hero speed, iteration, small bets and certainty. This is because when innovating for Horizon 3 we are operating on much larger time and investment scales with much less certainty.
The Product Navigation Framework helps us make a plan for uncertainty and gives us a process to change course without sacrificing direction. This is essential when making large, long term bets to ensure we don’t either stick to a plan that doesn’t work, or sacrifice our journey at the smallest sign of trouble.
But, it’s important to remember that we are not sacrificing Horizon 1 thinking either. This Framework should be used separately and alongside Horizon 1 approaches as we embark on building future, Horizon 3 products today.