Magnifying glass signifying discovery

Creating alignment during product discovery

tobiogunsina Product management 1 Comment

“A product discovery typically describes a (flexible) period during which you and your team focus on building the right thing as opposed to building the thing right (which would be Product Delivery)” – Tim Herbig

Product discovery focuses on learning fast and it is one of the key roles of product manager. There are several habits that enable product discovery and this post focuses on one of these habits –  Creating Alignment

But first of all, why is alignment so important?

Why creating alignment is important

Creating alignment at the beginning ensures that your team has a really clear understanding of the problem or opportunity you are exploring. It helps provide clarity and create shared understanding. If everybody in the team is aligned and starting from a level playing field, it’s easier for the whole team to collaborate and take ownership of the process of figuring out the right solution. 

It is also mostly asynchronous at the beginning which is particularly useful in a remote setting.

Here’s a kickoff process I’ve used successfully with several teams. It works very well when exploring a particular problem area to create alignment and shared understanding within the team

Step 1: Write Kickoff brief

Document everything you know (or don’t know) in a kickoff brief document.

This document is to provide sufficient context and structure the conversation about the problem area or opportunity. It can be written by the product manager or any combination of people who have the most context and can find information about the subject. 

While you can start with a template, it will need to evolve to include information that is useful in your context. Here are some good things to document for a start:

What you know

This could include what you already know, for example, an overview of the context, overarching user need or job to be done, known problems, results of prior research, current user journey or process. It is not meant to be a duplicate of documents that already exist, it’s sufficient to add a summary and link to the source. 

What you want to find out

This should cover what you need to know or understand to explore the subject, how to find out and who can do that. For example: it can include questions you have or assumptions you have.

What you need to consider

This should include any considerations and constraints that might impact this work.

What is out of scope

This is about setting the boundaries and should cover things that are out of scope or things you are not going to do now but shouldn’t forget.

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This is just a guideline for starting a kickoff brief, what you think is important to document and its length will depend on what you are working on. I’ve used this in a variety of ways and the resulting document is always very different. 

Step 2: Get feedback 

Once you have enough information to provide context. It’s helpful to share with the team and relevant stakeholders where possible. Give them enough time to read the document and contribute by adding their comments, clarifications and questions.

If it’s not possible for stakeholders outside of your team to read the kickoff brief, you should have conversations with them about it and update the brief based on those conversations.

Step 3: Kickoff workshop

When the team has had a chance to review and add their thoughts. A kick off workshop helps work through the comments and questions as well as add more information as you go through each section together. You can then determine next steps or make decisions needed, together. New sections can be added to the document as needed. 

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I find that kickoff briefs and the conversations it enables are a very helpful starting point for creating alignment and exploring a problem space. The kickoff brief can also evolve to become a form of knowledge store or reference document, which means anyone who misses that conversation can refer back to it later. 

Try the kickoff process out and let me know if you find it helpful.