Let’s see what product strategy coaching is, how it can benefit you and what you can expect from it.

Product strategy coaching involves two concepts: product strategy and coaching.

Unlike a strategy consultant, a strategy coach doesn’t tell you what to do–but they accompany you towards developing your product strategy and deploying it successfully. This service is best for those who feel confident in their knowledge of the field.

The product coach will help you avoid some of the common mistakes that tend to happen when a new product is being launched. They also make sure you emphasize the right aspects and draw up an actionable and compelling plan.

The second component of this discipline is product strategy.

It’s important to first explore the idea of ‘strategy’ in order to understand what product strategy is and how it’s implemented effectively.


Simply setting ambitious goals is not a strategy. That’s just goal setting. A good strategy is a coherent action backed by an argument. An effective mix of thought and action with a basic underlying structure.

Strategy is a coherent response to an important challenge that forms the basis of other elements in any plan. Unlike goals, which are individual items, strategies are all-inclusive – based on coordination, analyses, concepts and more.

It is about identifying a few critical problems in a situation and then focusing and concentrating action on them.

The Kernel of a Good Strategy - Richard Rumelt - Decalogue of a Good Strategy - Gerard Chiva

The Kernel of a Good Strategy from the book “Good Strategy/Bad Strategy”

The first step to design an effective strategy is diagnosing the challenge rather than simply naming goals. The second step is to choose a general guiding policy to deal with the situation that is based on employing or creating some form of leverage or advantage. The third step is the design a coherent action and organizational structure to implement the chosen guiding policy.

Product Strategy

Business-related strategy and product-related strategy are two things that should be distinguished. They are often confused by people, but separating them is essential to being successful in a company.

  • Business strategy determines how the organization will succeed and it is the responsibility of the executive team. It consists of understanding the context and the challenges your organization faces, designing a guiding policy and determining the main activities and investments that must be made. 
  • Product strategy determines how the product will be successful and is the responsibility of the product leader. It consists of determining what product to create, for what customers, with what value proposition and how to market it effectively.

Business strategy provides the company with the basis for making the right investment decisions. At the same time, it offers the product leader the required context to make the right strategic decisions about the product, for example, the market that the product should serve and the strategic objectives that it must meet.

Imagine the case of a company in the food consumption sector. Its business strategy may involve focusing on low-calorie eating for small merchants of healthy products, as its executive team has determined that there is an opportunity due to population consumption trends and current supply. Within these guidelines, product managers will define their product strategies focusing on two fundamental aspects:

  • Where to play – Which clients represent our objective?
  • How to win – Value proposition and business model

Strategy Deployment

The key of strategic deployment is to ensure that the strategy is carried out at all levels of the company. To start with, you must be able to connect the product strategy with the goals of your company.

After the strategy design process, we obtain some objectives to pursue, for which we will identify themes in the product roadmap.

Product Roadmap - Agility Ladder - Agility Levels - Intercom Adapted

The product roadmap themes will go through a product discovery process to ensure their viability and then go to delivery.

The strategic deployment process is iterative and incremental, so that the higher levels provide the direction to follow and the lower levels return information and insights that affect changes in the strategic direction.

What is Product Strategy Coaching?

A product strategy coach is a senior professional with a strong background in product, strategy, leadership, consulting and coaching who works with product leaders to help them design and deploy a winning  product strategy.

The difference between a strategy consultant from McKinsey or Bain & Co. and a strategy coach is that consultants provide a solution, while coaches help you discover it.

A product strategy coach accompanies your product leadership team through a thought-provoking and creative process to increase your strategic situational awareness which enables you to define and implement the best possible way forward.

The product strategy coach assumes that you are the expert in your field and industry, whilst the consultant assumes that you don’t have a clue.

Benefits of a Product Strategy Coaching Process

I honestly think that in an organization worth its salt, the main benefit of working with a product coach is that the destiny of the organization is once again in the hands of the leaders. You no longer delegate that crucial responsibility to external consultants.

You’re responsible and accountable for product success. Hence, blaming the consultant is not an option anymore 😉

Structure of a Product Strategy Coaching Process

We define strategy as the solution to a challenge towards a compelling goal.

The central content of a strategy is a diagnosis of the situation in question, the identification of a guiding policy and a set of coherent actions.

If your goal is to climb the Everest (goal), you must analyze your current situation (situational awareness), then you identify the biggest hurdles (challenges) and define a guideline to overcome those challenges that is then implemented through an iterative and incremental plan.

In product management terminology:

  • Goal – Product Vision / Winning Aspiration / Strategic Intent
  • Situational Awareness – Current situation is composed by an understanding of the competitive landscape, the forces at play, tendencies and your own organizational and product capabilities
  • Challenges – for each challenge we define a guiding policy to tackle it. Some people refer to this as ‘Strategic Themes’
  • Plan – the guiding policies are made real through an agile implementation plan with Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) and a Product Roadmap.


How to Select the Right OKRs - Aktia Solutions

I hope this makes sense now.

The first step in making the strategy real is to discover the great revelation to gain a sustainable competitive advantage. That is, an intuition on how to win.

A great strategy comes from a combination of wisdom and design. That is why we use tools such as Design Thinking to help our clients come up with innovative growth strategies that leverage their intelligence and knowledge of the industry.

Let’s briefly explore the key components of a well-crafted product strategy.

Product Vision

A Vision Statement defines the desired future state of your product, and can help you stay focused on your goals. It’s like a visual picture of what you want to accomplish over time.

It answers the some or all of the following questions:

  • Where do we want to be?
  • What do we do?
  • How do we do it?
  • Who do we do it for?
  • What makes us different?
  • What is the benefit?

Situational Awareness

The problem with most businesses is that they lack situational awareness, so they operate only based on purpose and gut feeling.

Can you imagine a General going to war without a map showcasing the landscape, points of interest, the situation of their forces and their enemy’s, but instead using a SWOT? Well, that’s how many businesses still operate nowadays.

When we think about strategy we should take the point of view of a chess player, not the point of view of visionaries or story tellers.

Challenges & Guiding Policy

Identify the most pressing challenges and define a guiding policy

Like guardrails of a highway, the guiding policy directs and restricts the action without completely defining its content. Good guidelines are not goals or visions. Rather, they define a method to deal with the situation and rule out a wide range of possible actions.


By focusing on a few points you can achieve more success by coordinating more effort. This is the best source of leverage available in strategy.

To succeed, actions must be coordinated and implemented over each other.

The way we put the product strategy into action is with OKRs that serve as guiding posts and the roadmap that is a hypothesis of our strategy and that we will validate with the continuous integration of discovery and delivery cycles.

What Experience Should I Look for when Hiring a Coach?

You want someone to help you find the solution, not to provide it. Therefore, you shouldn’t value the coach’s background in your industry, but her ability to empathize and help you make decisions as a team.

We expect a senior professional who has experience in team coaching and in the practice of strategic design and deployment techniques, such as design thinking, Wardley Maps, OKRs and outcome-based roadmaps.

It should also be someone with experience in managing a business or a product, to be sure that they have walked in your shoes before.

Why Would I Need a Product Strategy Coach?

When your product does not meet expectations, it is a good time to review the strategy design and deployment process. That’s where most of the problems usually start, and not in the lower levels.

If you want to know where the problem could be, I recommend that you download our eBook ‘The Art of Strategy’ and fill out the assessment in the last chapter.

To be more concise, the following are a few specific product strategy situations that indicate when something’s not going well:

  • Not facing a challenge
  • Mistaking goals for strategy
  • Rigid team organization

Not Facing a Challenge

So, what is the challenge you are facing right now? What are the challenges you will be facing in the next 3-5 years? If the challenge is not defined, it is difficult to assess the quality of the strategy. Instead, you have a strict goal, a budget, or a list of things that you wish would happen.

A strategy is a path through a difficulty, an approach to overcome an obstacle, a response to a challenge.

Mistaking Goals for Strategy

Product objectives shouldn’t come out of a brainstorming session. They must be the consequence of a structured strategic thinking process.

For many people, the best way to set direction is to develop a shared vision of what the product will be like in the future, contrast it with the way the product is now, and then create a plan to close the gap. Which might include OKRs, a roadmap or a combination of both.

But there is a problem with this approach. The missing part is designing a winning strategy. The strategic thinking required before developing the strategic plan.

Rigid Team Organization

Most of today’s products are big and complicated. It is rare for a single product team to take care of the whole product. This means that each product organization must address the question of how to structure its product teams to better divide the work.

As a product leader, establishing an effective team topology is one of your key responsibilities.

A very common mistake even today is to design a value structure independently of the product strategy, when it should be a consequence. It is about answering the question “what is the best way to organize ourselves to achieve our strategic objectives?”.

What we cannot do is take structure for granted and do what we can with it.

Therefore, we will need to review the team structure whenever there are significant changes in product direction.

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