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Product Navigation: Chart

By Adrienne Tan

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:

  1. GAZE
  2. APPRAISE
  3. CHART
  4. VOYAGE
  5. MONITOR
  6. ARRIVE

Chart

Chart is the third step in the Product Navigation Framework. Charting signifies that we are ready to plan the journey to our future destination. At this stage, the core team is solidified but will require more specialised assistance and expertise to inform the design and plan the route.

What is it?

Charting ensures the team and the organisation understands the route we’re taking.  Every journey has uncertainty, but charting produces a Voyage Blueprint as well as a Voyage Plan with milestones and potential changes. While it is essential the team is comfortable with the unknown, the Voyage Plan offers our stakeholders assurance that we have an understanding of the conditions for success. With a Voyage Plan, we are set to sail.

Goal

The goals of Chart are to garner the voyage’s guiding principles, produce a Voyage Plan and assemble the initial provisions for the journey. The organisation’s confidence will continue to lift as we more deeply detail the voyage, the timeframe and anticipate any challenges that we may encounter along the way.

How do we Chart?

  1. Design – The Voyage Blueprint to manage the unknowns and set principles for making decisions
  2. Plan – The route with milestones to keep the voyage on track
  3. Provision – The team with the requirements to begin the journey, knowing that we’ll stop to refuel along the way

1. Design

Research about the industry, market, as well as our organisation has already been completed in Appraise. In Chart, apply the team’s insights (gaps and risks) and information (expert advice) to begin designing the Voyage Blueprint.

The Blueprint is a high-level schematic of how the team will approach the Voyage. The benefit of having a Blueprint is that it guides team behaviour and empowers the team to make decisions. This Voyage is a significant strategic undertaking for the organisation; it will require alignment and autonomy to drive forward to the destination. It cannot rely on management or executive oversight and supervision to reach the future destination, as the goal must be to manage through principles rather than people.

The Voyage Blueprint contains but is not limited to:

  • The Voyage Method – The approach we’ll take to bridge the high and medium-term organisational gaps
  • Team Engagement Principles – Ways we’ll engage with our immediate team, other internal teams and external partners
  • Decision principles – How will the team be empowered to make decisions on:
    • Problems – Guidelines to help the team solve strategic and operational problems during the Voyage
    • Investment – Guidelines to assist the team make appropriate financial decisions

The Voyage Blueprint Example:

Our Destination:

Create renewable plastic packaging from re-used waste and non-fossil fuels

The Voyage Method:

Mixed Resource Method

Develop internal capability to lead the journey and to develop key IP, outsource where appropriate and partner with experts to get to market within the expected timeframe

Team Engagement Principles:

Immediate Team

  • It’s not not your job
  • Embrace uncertainty
  • It’s OK to say ‘I don’t know’
  • We lead as colleagues, not prima-donnas

Other Internal Teams

  • Show, don’t tell
  • Give reasons, not opinions
  • Be transparent

External Partners

  • Share company data, keep competitor data confidential
  • Respond to all partner communications
  • Supplier gifts should be returned politely

Decision Principles:

When solving problems:

  • Understand the impact of the problem first. Do we need to solve it now?
  • Don’t wait for complete information. What is the minimum we need?
  • Use low investment experiments to test multiple options, fast
  • Work backwards from the desired outcome to identify options

When considering investments:

  • Aim to deliver a return on investment 7 years after the opportunity is delivered
  • Diversify risks across multiple suppliers and partners
  • Take informed risks; Risk tolerance level is high

Creating the Blueprint requires engagement with specific functional teams that are aligned to each section contained in the Blueprint. The immediate team should brainstorm possible unforeseen scenarios or events that they may encounter during the journey. The risks identified in Appraise can be used to prime these scenarios.

From there, the team should design the Team Engagement Principles to manage any friction or challenges that may arise during these events. Using the scenarios as a guide, co-create the Investment Principles with the finance team. The Voyage Method and Decision Principles when created require endorsement from executives. Formal executive endorsement is vital because the Voyage Blueprint provides the team with the journey’s decision-making guidelines.

The Voyage Blueprint should not be altered regularly. Charters should use the Voyage Blueprint like a compass and refer to it regularly throughout the journey. Like a compass, the intent of the Blueprint is to ensure that the whole team is pointing in the same direction; behaving and solving problems in the same way.

2. Plan

It can be difficult to plan for Horizon 1 improvements, so planning for Horizon 3 can feel impossible. With so many uncertainties, it can be tempting not to plan. But, without a plan, it is challenging to organise people and resources to begin the journey.

To overcome this challenge, think of the Voyage Plan as a hypothesis of the ‘safest, most favourable and economical route’ to the future destination.

The Voyage Plan outlines the preferred route the journey should take. Part of designing that route means articulating and planning for the known unknowns, things we’re aware of but do not understand how to resolve. This Voyage Plan should also include alternative routes that prepare the team for unexpected conditions when the preferred route is no longer tenable. The team can decide when the original route is no longer executable following the decision principles outlined in the Voyage Blueprint.

Importantly, the Voyage Plan is to be designed in conjunction with the Voyage Blueprint. Stakeholder discussions and the process of creating each artefact will inform the other. It is expected that the Blueprint remains fairly static. The Voyage Plan, however, is expected to be modified frequently as we gain more information mid-journey.

The Voyage Plan is at its heart a communication tool and should be referred to constantly during the journey. Making the Voyage Plan visible can be useful as it allows the team to plot where they are on the journey during subsequent stages.

The Voyage Plan Example:

Our Destination:

Create renewable plastic packaging from re-used waste and non-fossil fuels

Voyage Method

Mixed Resource Method

Develop internal capability to lead the journey and to develop key IP, outsource where appropriate and partner with experts to get to market within the expected timeframe

Target Duration

5 Years

Milestones

  1. Create a comprehensive action plan for the Voyage
  2. The delivery of a renewable plastics formula
  3. A plastics manufacturing process and a viable facility in Australia
  4. A recognised renewable plastics accreditation and contracts with the top 10 FMCG manufacturers in Australia
  5. An operational efficient ecosystem to collect, clean and separate waste
  6. An end-to-end process from waste collection to renewable plastic packaging products on shelves in 2 retail stores

Preferred Route

We believe the safest, most favourable and economical route to the future destination to be:

  • Partner with local and international universities to support R&D initiatives
  • Invest in an in-house team to innovate and further develop plastics patent
  • Develop candidate-tracking technology internally
  • Identify partners to collect, clean and separate waste
  • Establish plastics manufacturing process and facilities in Australia and New Zealand
  • Hire consultants to create the process & accreditation for materials & worker safety
  • Resource an internal team to design and manage quality control
  • Identify, employ and manage global consultants to secure supplier partnerships to use created plastics

Known Unknowns

There are several unknowns that may alter this route:

  • Will universities wish to partner with us?
  • Will we be able to secure the expertise to build candidate tracking technologies in time for tests?
  • Will we be able to secure capabilities to manufacture plastics ourselves?

Alternative Route

We believe the next best route to the future destination to be:

  • Offer significant grants to local and international universities to support R&D initiatives
  • Invest in an in-house team to innovate and further develop plastics patent
  • Purchase and integrate candidate tracking technology into our current systems
  • Identify partners to collect, clean and separate waste
  • Outsource plastics manufacturing process and facilities in Australia and New Zealand
  • Hire consultants to create the process & accreditation for materials & worker safety
  • Resource an internal team to design and manage quality control
  • Employ and manage local consultants to secure supplier partnerships to use created plastics

Once the team has a clear mental model of the Voyage Plan and can confidently articulate the Plan to stakeholders, it’s time to provision for the initial part of the journey.

 

3. Provision

The first step of Provision is to unlock the first tranche of funding. Launching Horizon 3 products is a financially intensive undertaking and the type and amount of resources required to complete this feat are usually not available in the day-to-day, operational budgets. A key part of Appraise was advocating and raising the organisation’s confidence, this should continue as planning solidifies the journey in Chart.

While it is difficult to accurately forecast the investment return at this early stage, what we can call attention to are the ramifications for the organisation’s future if it does not undertake this crucial journey. Only then will we be able to unlock the first round of funding.

Charters also have to check that the current organisational capital required to fuel the journey is accessible and is in order. Is the Provision funding adequate to fill the high-priority gaps identified in Appraise, and by when will they be filled? If the required organisational capital isn’t available, this may delay the beginning of the Voyage or it may mean that Charters have to find substitutes.

The excitement of the journey now begins to take hold as Chart comes to an end. The journey seems less daunting, and more attainable, as we work as a team to Voyage to the future. Let’s go!

Bring your team to LTP DIGITAL 2022 | APAC on May 18, 2022, for an immersive, one-day product conference where we will unveil this new framework and watch them bring back a new toolkit to drive greater outcomes for your organisation.

In the coming weeks, we will explore each of the Six Phases in the Product Navigation: How to Chart a Course to an Uncertain Future in the countdown to LTP DIGITAL 2022 | APAC.