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TACTICS: The 7 Ts Of Product-Led Transformation

By Adrienne Tan

All transformation journey’s begin with a desired “Target-State”. How do organisations that are already product-led operate? What can we learn from then?

How can we imagine success and participate in the design of the Transformation plan with a strategic focus on being Product-Led?

Every Product-Led Transformation Program requires a tactical plan outlining discrete steps and actions that will enable the team to achieve a ‘Target State’. In the case of a Product-Led Transformation, the ‘Target State’ must be aligned to the Portfolio or Product Vision; specifically how the organisation will change the way it orchestrates Product discovery, delivery and growth.

We focus on a tactical plan rather than a top-level strategy in our 7Ts, because the details and the intricate steps of the program matter.

Each element of the Product-Led Transformation tactical plan is critical for continued success.

Elements of a Product-Led Transformation Tactical Plan

The tactical plan should include the following elements:

a) Target State

  • A ‘Target State’ is best expressed as a story. The story should describe the future of the organisation, the way its teams will work and operate to discover and deliver products, and how customers will respond to the changes in the organisation’s products.

Barry O’Reilly says that successful Transformation Programs should describe the business outcomes, such as:

“Customers would be using our products more. We’d be innovating much faster, bringing new products to market sooner. And customers would reinvest more funds from current accounts into our other services.”

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The story must be embedded in the tactical plan to ensure continued momentum.

b) Portfolio or Product Vision

  • The Vision is also best conveyed as a narrative. This time the story is about the market, and the way in which the Product solves the customer problem, and how it contributes to the betterment of the customer’s life.

The Vision timeline needs to be established to describe when the Vision will be realised by the organisation.

For a company-wide transformation, the Vision needs to be sold by the CEO, CPO and CTO. The story needs to be embedded from the top and weave its way down, because it isn’t the sole responsibility of operational teams (Product Managers included) to sell the dream of ‘what could be’.

The dynamic trio – the CEO, CPO and CTO – need to rally the troops, with the board acting as a cohesive unit. Without unity, it is difficult to change deeply rooted behaviours and mindsets.

The trio needs “to make the status quo seem more dangerous, than launching into the unknown.”

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c) Resourcing and Staffing

  • The plan should define the types of resources, skills and high performers required to deliver in a Product-Led organisation.

This will require a thorough review of the current Product team structure and its capabilities to understand the gap between the Current State and the Target State.

The plan should describe how the organisation will bridge the gaps, which may include a new team structure, new roles and therefore skills, and plans on how to acquire these new skills to operate in the Target State, and when to bring them into the organisation.

The plan should also depict the type of leaders and the style of leadership that the organisation requires.

The optimal team structure should enable teams to work together effectively, but also to operate independently, and to design, deliver and grow products that customers love.

The plan should also include the specific, short term extra resources required to assist with the Transformation Program. It should outline the type and timing of the availability of these resources.

A detailed on-boarding process and program, which is often forgotten, but vital to ensure our people have the right experience, should also be included in the tactical plan.

d) Enabling and Empowering

  • The plan should include the time needed to design the types of systems, practices and norms that enable teams to know how to, and when to carry out specific tasks and activities as independent teams. This will mean that the business can operate without having to rely on instructions from managers.

More importantly, the plan should realise that creating systems, practices and norms is an ongoing effort, and it should clearly show how the management of the various practices will continue to move towards the ‘Target State’.

A continuous learning program with varied and multiple sessions, that nurtures and educates existing and new business functions and teams, including the Executive Group and potential board members, on the new ways of behaving and operating is key to delivering Product-Led Transformation.

e) Making and Delivering

  • Making and delivering is a key component of the Product-Led Transformation Tactical Plan. Making and delivering is an active, and more purposeful approach to transformation. It enables stakeholders to see the benefits of the program as the mode of operating evolves.

To prove the effectiveness of a Product-Led process, the plan should include the first product, or product feature, that the organisation will make and deliver applying the new way of operating.

The chosen product should begin delivering to the Portfolio or Product Vision, and should prove that the applied changes are moving the organisation closer to the Target State.

A continuous process of making and delivering also requires a new approach to funding. The funding of teams and work should not be done on a case-by-case basis. Instead, funding for teams and work should be committed annually, with a view to regularly reviewing the investment returns delivered by the team.

f) Sensing and Responding

  • The Transformation plan needs to have both internal and external checkpoints where the organisation can gauge if it’s on the right path, and is getting its desired outcomes.

An internal checkpoint may be to gauge the product team’s ability to perform at the level described in the ‘Target State’ story. While external checkpoints may relate to the product’s market performance. Immediate action needs to be taken if the team and or the product is not performing as anticipated.

This unending cycle of action, results and course correction is what is required to ensure that the organisation can reach the ‘Target State’.

g) Embedding and Evangelising

In 2018, Mckinsey shared that less than 30% of Transformation Programs succeed.

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The level of investment in Transformation seems highly unsound given this frightening low rate of return.

In order to provide a greater chance of success, any Transformation Plan should factor in ongoing embedding and evangelising activities that help keep this new way of operating in mind.

Activities may include establishing forums within the organisation to encourage teams to share practices and insights, and to encourage teams to continue to learn from each other.

It may include the CEO evangelising the organisation’s way of operating at external events.

There will be many instances of mishaps during any Product-Led Transformation program, and the plan needs to accommodate these situations as they arise. One way to discuss mishaps is to plan to use them as learning opportunities, and to embed and evangelise the concept that mishaps are a normal part of any business.

Want to improve your company’s chances of Transformation success by learning how others transformed their companies and teams using Product-Led techniques? The evidence shows that Product-Led organisations yield better financial results.

LTP DIGITAL 2021 is a one-day conference on May 26, 2021 that is all about how to become one of those organisations.


Narelle Charity, Director of Product, SEEK and
Lisa Tobin, MD Technology, SEEK

Learn how Narelle and Lisa changed the way Seek orchestrates Product discovery, delivery and growth.

How did Narelle and Lisa successfully design a holistic Product-Led transformation roadmap for Seek’s future?

You will walk away from their talk saying “I know what success looks like (and I can copy it).”