How-To Find & Fix Your Strategic Blindspots
Blindspot: the portion of your life, your current situation of which you are unaware.
Everyone has blindspots. We cannot be aware of everything at all times. The goal in our lives and for our product strategy should be to rank and minimize them.
The problem with blindspots in business is that product managers rarely consider or even acknowledge them. In (y)our defense, it is tough to sell a solution to a problem that may never materialize.
Here is a method that will help you identify weaknesses and provide a quantitative method for presenting why and how to address them.
Elimination of blindspots in our business is not feasible, but we can do several things to reduce their risk to our product strategy.
The first is to gather a cross-functional team of domain experts and identify the most likely sources of problems for your business. Topics could be: technical, distribution, financial/cash flow, personnel, manufacturing, supply chain, marketing, training, customer support, M&A in your industry, your company’s strategy.
These lists are long and potentially disheartening.
The next step is to ask everyone on the team to identify some unlikely, but potentially damaging scenarios. This can border on the tinfoil-hat conspiracy theories, depending on the group, but the act of listing and discussing these unlikely scenarios is good for developing the team and stretching both their comfort zone and their thought processes.
Now, keeping the lists completely separate but using the same scales, rank each entry by probability and business impact. When done, multiply the numbers line-by-line and you have your ranking.
This is not the most rigorous method possible, but it is a great leap forward from the nothing you had, and it is not terribly time consuming or complex.
Now that you have a rank list of your potential blindspots, you can begin to develop methods for minimizing them.
The methods for minimizing the myriad of issues you will uncover is beyond the scope of a brief article, there are some common traits that apply to most situations.
First, business decisions are based on data, and qualitative information IS data. It is impossible to get funding for a problem based on your hunch. It is much different if you present that “the experts developed a list of 13 blindspots in our product line, ranked them based on probability and impact. The data shows us that we need to fund a project to address XYZ within six months.”
Second, this method can scale to focus on your entire product line from cradle to grave, or to solve customer complaints regarding installation of your products.
Third, it is rare that a cross-functional team is assembled in one place at one time. The benefits that come from information sharing, debating scenarios, and the after hours gatherings will pay huge dividends as you move to implement solutions and when you create new products in the future.
Everyone, and every organization, has blindspots. We cannot be aware of everything all of the time.
The issues that could be lurking in our blindspots can be detrimental to our product line and to our long-term product strategy. Your job is not simple, but straightforward:
What are you doing in this time of unprecedented change to remain successful? If you are trying to simply hold on until we get back to "normal," then you are failing to take advantage of opportunities to leap ahead of your competition.
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