Episode 22: Agile Strategy Map w/Darren Duarte
25 August, 2020 / Host: Magnus Billgren
How to Adapt to Uncertainty with an Agile Strategy Map
The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted businesses in unprecedented ways. A survey by McKinsey in July 2020 found that more than 90% of C-level executives believe the pandemic will change their business, and over 96% have already changed their go-to-market activities. Many companies have also recognized the need to redesign their supply chain to support flexibility and risk mitigation, shifting away from a focus on cost and efficiency.
As Product Managers, we must navigate this time of uncertainty and adapt our strategies accordingly. One approach is to use an Agile Strategy Map, a tool developed by Agile42 in Berlin. This tool divides the areas in which we act into two domains: the Ordered Domain, where planning is straightforward, and the Unordered Domain, where planning is more complicated due to uncertainties. Darren Duarte, an agile coach at Contentful in Berlin, shares his experience and insights about how the Agile Strategy Map can enable companies and teams to continuously evolve, adapt, and improve.
What is the Agile Strategy Map?
The Agile Strategy Map is a visual framework that helps companies and teams align their goals, strategies, and products. It is based on the principles of Agile and Lean methodologies, such as iterative and incremental development, continuous improvement, and customer feedback. The Agile Strategy Map consists of four key components:
- Goals: The Agile Strategy Map starts with the company's vision and mission statements, which are then translated into measurable and achievable goals. The goals are divided into four domains: Simple, Complicated, Complex, and Chaotic, based on their level of predictability and uncertainty.
- Themes: The goals are then broken down into themes, which represent the areas of focus and investment for the company. The themes are aligned with the goals and are prioritized based on their value and impact.
- Initiatives: The themes are further broken down into initiatives, which are the high-level projects and activities that need to be executed to achieve the goals. The initiatives are prioritized based on their strategic alignment, feasibility, and expected outcomes.
- Experiments: The initiatives are then decomposed into experiments, which are the low-level tests and prototypes that need to be conducted to validate the assumptions, hypotheses, and risks associated with the initiatives. The experiments are prioritized based on their learning potential, risk level, and impact.
Why use the Agile Strategy Map?
The Agile Strategy Map can help companies and teams in several ways:
- Alignment: The Agile Strategy Map can help align the goals, themes, initiatives, and experiments across different departments, teams, and products. It can also help align the stakeholders' expectations, priorities, and feedback.
- Experimentation: The Agile Strategy Map can encourage experimentation and innovation by providing a safe and structured way to test and learn from new ideas, hypotheses, and risks. It can also foster a culture of continuous improvement and feedback.
- Adaptation: The Agile Strategy Map can facilitate adaptation and resilience by providing a flexible and dynamic way to respond to changes, disruptions, and opportunities. It can also help mitigate risks and dependencies by identifying and addressing them early on.
- Visualization: The Agile Strategy Map can provide a clear and concise way to visualize the company's strategy, progress, and performance. It can also help communicate the rationale, value, and impact of the initiatives and experiments to the stakeholders.
How to use the Agile Strategy Map?
The Agile Strategy Map can be used in different contexts, such as product development, project management, and organizational transformation. Here are some steps to follow:
- Define the vision and mission statements: The Agile Strategy Map starts with the company's vision and mission statements, which provide the purpose and direction for the company.
- Identify the goals and domains: The vision and mission statements are translated into measurable and achievable goals, which are then categorized into different domains. These domains are the Ordered Domain, which includes areas of the business that are predictable and can be planned for, and the Unordered Domain, which includes areas that are uncertain and unpredictable.
- Create a roadmap for the Ordered Domain: In the Ordered Domain, a traditional roadmap can be created to guide the company towards achieving its goals. This roadmap can be broken down into smaller, more manageable pieces, such as quarterly or monthly sprints.
- Use Experiments, Necessary Conditions, and Possible Success Factors in the Unordered Domain: Traditional planning may not be effective due to the uncertainty and unpredictability of the environment. Instead, the Agile Strategy Map proposes the use of Experiments, Necessary Conditions (NC), and Possible Success Factors (PSF). Experiments allow companies to test and learn quickly and efficiently, while NCs and PSFs help identify what conditions must be met to achieve success.
- Create a double-sided strategy: By having a strategy for both the Ordered and Unordered Domains, companies can better handle uncertainty and dependencies. The Ordered Domain provides a structured plan to work towards achieving goals, while the Unordered Domain allows for flexibility and experimentation.
Finally, the Agile Strategy Map includes success factors, which are the measures the organization will use to track progress and determine whether it's achieving its goals. Success factors should be specific and measurable. For example, if the goal is to increase revenue, a success factor might be the number of new customers acquired.
One of the benefits of the Agile Strategy Map is that it provides a clear, visual representation of the organization's strategy and how teams' work fits into it. This can help to ensure that everyone is aligned around the same goals and that teams are working together towards achieving those goals.
Another benefit is that the framework encourages experimentation and learning. By including experiments as a key element of the framework, organizations are encouraged to try new approaches and learn from them. This can help to drive innovation and continuous improvement.
- The COVID-19 pandemic has led to significant changes in business operations, with many companies looking to redesign their supply chains for greater flexibility and risk mitigation.
- The Agile Strategy Map is a tool that can help product managers navigate uncertainty and dependencies in both ordered and unordered domains, using objects such as experiments, necessary conditions, and possible success factors.
- To use the Agile Strategy Map effectively, companies should start by defining their vision and mission statements, identifying goals and domains, and then creating a double-sided strategy that can handle uncertainties and dependencies.
If you're looking to enhance your product management skills and become a certified product manager, consider enrolling in a comprehensive program like the Productbeats Product Management Certification Program. With its practical approach and industry-relevant curriculum, this program can equip you with the knowledge and skills you need to succeed in your product management career.
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