Strategic Team Alignment: Elevating the Executive Gate Review [+Webinar]
Watch our on-demand webinar, Cultivating a Strategic Product Team, Part 2: Elevating Executive Gate Reviews, to learn more about the process in-depth.
After completing a recent Gate Review workshop for a fintech client, the VP of Product Management walked over to me and asked, “Could this process really be used to do ‘status updates’ at the executive level for five projects in 30 minutes?” I said, “Yes!”
In Part 2 of our Cultivating a Strategic Product Team webinar series, we’re focusing on structuring a winning culture for product management, at any kind of company. Check out Part 1, The Power of the Product One-Pager, where we discussed how product management gets direction from the executive team and formulates a series of product releases that get organized into quarterly “newsworthy” events. These events are then organized into a Product One-Pager that defines the product release, its key features, and the desired business effect.
Leveraging the Product One-Pager for Executive Review
In Part 2, I will discuss how to use the Product One Pager template to conduct effective review and approval conversations with your executives. Leveraging the template, these reviews become focused on the right topics, avoiding overly detailed conversations, and lead to rapid approval or resolution of issues.
Give executives your release “story”
From the Directors and VP point-of-view, the Product One-Pager is an incredible document. It contains all of the information that is really valuable about a release – the problems to be solved, the key features that solve them, revenue goals, KPIs/OKRs, hypothesis, personas, etc. It tells the “story” of the release and creates clear boundaries for features, revenue, and dates that make it apparent to everyone if the product is “in-bounds” or “out-of-bounds.” When a boundary is documented, I expect the Product Managers to work incredibly hard to keep their products “in-bounds” and avoid a lot of uncomfortable meetings. This makes the process self-managing and encourages Product Managers to make goals that they own.
Switching from an output mindset to a outcome mindset
The Product One-Pager also promotes a change in thinking within most product management organizations: it asks the Product Manager to change the focus from the “release of the product” (tracking outputs) to the achievement of some desired business goal (delivering outcomes).
The use of a Gate Review process within product management is not new. 280 Group has been teaching a seven-phase methodology for years. To make things simple today, I will cover a five-phase process.
The Gate Review process has the Product Manager present to an Executive Review Board each time they would like to advance their product from one phase to another.
Now, imagine completing all of the tasks and documents during a phase and then going to the executive review with the appropriate Product One-Pager, reporting that your project is “in-bounds” and ask approval to progress to the next phase.
Getting clear on project boundaries
No long presentations. No reports on people and teams. The project’s intent is captured on the Product One-Pager. All the executives want to know is, “Is this product still abiding by the boundaries defined on the Product One-Pager?” Maybe your fifth most important feature is at risk – you don’t need to talk about it. You are committed to only the top three features detailed on the One-Pager. Maybe your VP of Sales has a question about the forecast – you can have this discussion based on the forecast documented in the One-Pager. The format of the document and of the meeting itself is focused on clarity and brevity.
Note: The Product One-Pager for a particular product is made during the Plan phase (Conceive phase is too early).
Six months following the release of a product, the PM returns to the Executive Review Board and the One-Pager is again presented. Revenue goals and the revenue actuals are presented – and the differences are explained. KPIs and OKRs are judged and changes to the sale and marketing plans are approved and deployed. Additionally, at the Maximize Gate Review, I usually do a quick summary of the “post-mortem” in order to share the things we learned during the previous phases. And this format can get this work done in minutes, not hours.
The Product One-Pager, the resulting roadmaps, and the Gate Review process can revolutionize your product management function. Watch our on-demand webinar, Cultivating a Strategic Product Team, Part 2: Elevating Executive Gate Reviews, to learn more about the process in-depth. It will put in place a process that will have your Product Managers driving business outcomes and executives engaging with strategy and oversight – not spending their time in endless status meetings.
About the Author
Ken Feehan is a Principal Consultant and Trainer for 280 Group.
Ken has deep experience in both the product development and Go-To-Market phases of the product cycle. He has worked/consulted to hardware, software, cloud, infrastructure and services companies and understands the business needs of each. He has 20+ years of Product Management and Product Marketing experience at top companies like Apple, Intuit, Dolby, Elo Touch and many start-up and small tech companies. Ken has a BS in International Business Management from Notre Dame de Namur University. Ken has a passion for exciting and delighting customers with outstanding products.
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