Episode 35: Get It Done - Product Planning w/Melissa Klemke

24 November, 2020 / Host: PETRA FÄRM

Product Planning with RTTOM

Product planning can be a daunting task for many, but for those of us addicted to planning, it's just another opportunity to organize our work in several layers and horizons. Whether you love it or hate it, planning is essential to delivering quality work on time and handling the never-ending inflow of new tasks.

But what does it take to become a successful product planner? According to Melissa Klemke, the Director of Product Management at Elmo, it all comes down to the RTTOM method - Really That's The Only Method. In this episode of The Productbeats Show, we'll explore the RTTOM method in depth and provide you with a template and checklist to help you get started.

Why we plan

Before diving into the RTTOM method, it's important to understand the benefits of product planning. Planning enables you to prioritize your work while allowing flexibility where needed. It also helps you determine what success looks like and how you'll measure it. By making commitments with deadlines, outcomes, and profits, planning helps make life more predictable in an unpredictable world.

Don’t be an Anti-planner

Some people believe that planning is a waste of time, and they would rather "learn as they go." However, this approach can often lead to mistakes due to poor planning, missed deadlines, and overlooked outcomes. It's important not to fall victim to the "shiny object syndrome" or believe that you just know what your biggest problem or opportunity is. Always plan to deliver, measure, and validate your work.

Roadmap Planning

While many people think of product planning as simply roadmap planning, it's important to remember that there's more to it than that. Product planning involves all the steps that come before the roadmap is delivered and measuring how you did. This is where the RTTOM method comes into play.

RTTOM Method

The RTTOM method consists of five phases: Research and Discovery, Technical Planning, Technical Execution Planning, Operational Planning, and Measure and Validation. Let's take a closer look at each phase:

Research and Discovery (Value Understanding)

The first phase of the RTTOM method involves understanding the value of the project. This phase is all about defining the problem, understanding your customers, and identifying what they want and need. It's important to never skip this phase, as it's essential to building the right thing, not just the first thing.

Technical Planning (Dependencies)

Once you understand the value of the project, it's time to move onto the technical planning phase. This phase involves identifying the technical dependencies required to build the project. It's important to consider technical debt and squash any debt in the process, as well as consider the pay-back timeframe for any debt you create.

Technical Execution Planning (Delivery)

The third phase of the RTTOM method involves planning the technical execution of the project. This phase involves breaking down the project into manageable tasks, identifying the resources needed, and estimating the time required for each task.

Operational Planning (Mobilizing Delivery)

Once you've planned the technical execution of the project, it's time to move onto the operational planning phase. This phase involves mobilizing the delivery of the project by identifying the processes, procedures, and tools required to support the project.

Measure and Validation (Value Realization)

The final phase of the RTTOM method involves measuring and validating the value of the project. This phase involves measuring the outcomes against the original goals, identifying any areas that need improvement, and validating the value of the project.

Tips for Using the RTTOM Method

  1. Use RTTOM for initiatives or feature work.
  2. Phases are set out as Prepare, Execute and Assess (PEA).
  3. This is a guide, add or subtract as needed, but before you subtract, think hard about the impact of that subtraction.
  4. Stakeholders and partners are essential to success - ensure strong relationships with infra, marketing, support, etc. Use RTTOM to get alignment and joint outcomes and create advocates.
  5. Never skip discovery - build the right thing, not the first thing.
  6. Consider tech-debt robustly - can you squash any debt in the process? If you are creating debt, what’s the pay-back timeframe?
  7. Expand the template to add owners, partners, stakeholders, and dependencies.
  8. Add a column with links to Jira/Confluence/Trello/Google Drive, whatever you are using, so you can refer to progress from the plan.
  9. Share the plan with your team - it gives visibility on the effort and the process and helps team ownership.
  10. Share the insights along the way - a good plan doesn't have one result at the end.
  11. Don't skip the measurements - otherwise, what was the point?


  • Planning is essential for success in any endeavor, whether it's in your personal or professional life. It enables you to prioritize, measure progress, and make commitments that are more likely to be kept.
  • The RTTOM method is a valuable tool for product planning, and includes research and discovery, technical planning and execution, operational planning, and measurement and validation. By following this method, you can ensure that you build the right product, not just the first one.
  • It's important to involve stakeholders and partners in the planning process, and to never skip the discovery phase. By doing so, you can build strong relationships, get alignment on joint outcomes, and create advocates for your product. Additionally, sharing the plan with your team and measuring progress along the way can help increase team ownership and ensure that the plan has a positive impact.

If you're interested in improving your product planning and management skills, you might want to consider taking a certification program. One such program that stands out is The Productbeats Product Management Certification Program. This program is designed to equip you with the knowledge and skills necessary to become a successful product manager. With a focus on practical application, you'll learn how to apply the latest frameworks and methodologies in product management to your work. So if you're ready to take your product management skills to the next level, The Productbeats Product Management Certification Program might be the perfect next step for you.
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