How to Use Strategy and Influence in Product Management

In this article, Wendy Gilbert discusses key ideas related to strategy and influence, such as what strategy is, the components of a strategy, successful strategies, what influence is and quality of good influencers.

Meet Wendy Gilbert

Wendy Gilbert is the Director of Product Management at the Global Data Platform for Egencia, Expedia. She also runs a blog on Data as a hobby.

Wendy Gilbert Expedia Product Manager

Intro to Strategy and Influence

What is strategy?

Wendy begins by explaining strategy, and how it’s crucial when it comes to product and product management. 

Strategy concept

A product strategy outlines where the product is going, how it will get there and why it will succeed. Product strategy enables you to focus on a specific target market and feature set, instead of trying to be everything to everyone. 

Strategy Diamond

Strategy diamond graph

1. Arena — Where will you be active?

  • Market Segment
  • Geography 
  • Channel
  • Stages 
  • Technologies

2.  Vehicles — How will you get there?

  • Internal development 
  • Joint venture 
  • Licensing
  • Alliance 
  • Acquisition 

3. Differentiators — How will you win in the marketplace?

  • Image 
  • Customization 
  • Price Reliability 
  • Speed to market 
  • Personalization 

4. Staging — How will you move?

  • Speed 
  • Sequencing 

5. Economic logic — How will you return on your investment?

  • Decreased cost 
  • New sales or market 
  • Increase $$ from existing sales 
  • Better results 

A good strategy is:

  • Practical: easy to follow when conducting daily activities 
  • Relevant: contextual to the organization/team, not generic
  • Evolutionary: expected to change on a regular basis
  • Connected/integrated with everything that comes after it or from it 

Why do some strategies fail? 

Colin Powell quote Strategy equals execution

Wendy mentions some factors which may lead to strategies failing:

  • One size doesn’t fit all
  • Offense versus defense
  • The product itself was flawed
  • Didn’t understand the product and/or the marketplace
  • It wasn’t a strategy in the first place, examples:
    • to provide a centralized Data Platform that can deliver quality data, in a timely fashion, to maximize value for both internal and external customers 
    • to grow the company by 15 percent 
    • to launch/transition to cloud service model by Jan 2019
  • Failed to outline what it wouldn’t do
  • Implemented as a top-down process: failed to get buy-in from the team 
  • Factors outside of your control
  • Change is hard, and strategies often require change
  • Loss of interest over time
  • Not agile: used a big-bang approach 
  • Not aligned with other teams or dependencies 
  • Didn’t focus on the business value 
  • RDD
Woman with dropped ice cream

What is influence?

Wendy moves on to explaining influence, and how to leverage it to implement product management efficiently.

Influence concept

What do people expect from their leaders? 

  • To know where they are going
  • Communication
  • Competence 
  • Authenticity 
  • Energy & Enthusiasm

Influence Styles

  • Rationalizing: logic and reason
  • Asserting: personal confidence and direction
  • Negotiating: compromise without sacrificing long term goal
  • Inspiring: shared mission, draw on passion to open people’s eyes to new possibilities 
  • Bridging: uniting and connecting others, listening and building coalitions

One size doesn’t fit all

  • We can’t all be charismatic, born leaders
  • Do I really need to lower my voice?
  • We don’t all need to lean in, but it’s fine if you want to
  • It shouldn’t feel like manipulation, be genuine

Increasing influence

  • Self Awareness: Know your strengths and weaknesses and manage them
  • Be competent, be prepared
  • Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable
  • Assume positive intent
  • Treat others well and solicit their opinions and expertise
  • Embrace difficult conversations: avoid passive aggressiveness
  • Tell stories
  • Be emotionally curious: connect with people and understand what drives them

Wendy concludes by emphasizing that one should always assume positive intent. It means that one should believe that everyone involved in the product development wants to solve a problem, and no one is going against the course or hiding something. Also, she cites Dale Carnegie’s book How to Win Friends and Influence People and advises that one should be genuinely curious to know about the people around them, which is an important factor of their positive influence.

Product School Book Ship It

Enjoyed the article? You may like this too: