Over the years I created my fair share of product strategies, product roadmaps and project gantts. I don’t do them anymore. I found a better alternative which I’ll explain below.
This form of planning is a ton of work — just getting all stakeholders to agree is a massive undertaking, yet ROI is very low. The plans quickly go out of sync with reality — the longer they are the more they are wrong. It took me awhile to realize that my fancy product roadmaps and project gantts were already outdated the day I published them. Also, it’s a waterfall (different from the famous project waterfall), meaning that there is almost no room for agility — changes at the top cause huge ripple effects of replanning and project cancellations at the bottom. Agile development addressed project waterfall, but didn’t change planning waterfall. And then there’s the impact on innovation and culture. As product roadmaps allow only for a few big projects to be funded you have to prioritize and kill many potentially good ideas upfront. In top-down orgs the winner ideas come from management. In bottom-up orgs getting your idea to win became a very big deal, hence pitching, salesmanship and hype are now mandatory product management skills. To me it all felt very mid-20th century.
This is a planning system that I started using while working at Google and further adapted over the years based on the principles of Lean Startup and Agile Development. I’ve introduced it to multiple companies and the results are very consistent — lightweight plans that are built for change, lower management overhead, improved team velocity and autonomy, better cross-company alignment and ultimately better products and solutions.