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Ant Murphy on shifting to outcome-driven roadmaps, elevating OKRs, and aligning discovery
Product State Q&A
Ant Murphy is the Founder at Product Pathways. He’s also a Product Coach and the Director at the Association of Product Professionals. He’s previously been a Product Manager, Agile Coach, Business Analyst, Product Owner, and Engineer.
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EC: What's the value of outcome-driven roadmaps, and what's the best way to get started?
AM: Outcome drive roadmaps have several benefits. The first is that they help avoid our roadmaps becoming a laundry list of features that need to be developed. They can act as a forcing function to ask the question: Why?
What benefit do we expect this feature to give us?
Which brings me to the second benefit which is that they can provide alignment. I see roadmaps all the time that are a list of ‘stuff’ but it begs the question why are we building all this ‘stuff?’ What goal or outcome are we driving towards as a team? So there’s also alignment. Alignment to a higher outcome and goal — as well as ensuring the items on the roadmap compliment each other and there’s coherence.
This also helps keep our roadmap short as we can group items below an outcome - anything that doesn’t help us drive towards this outcome doesn’t go on the roadmap. Why? Because it’s not important right now. Which indirectly helps us also prioritize.
Finally, the last benefit of outcome drive roadmaps are that they’re flexible. The biggest trap with product roadmaps I see are when they’re plans — not roadmaps. We see a bunch of features all nicely mapped against a timeline, depicting when something will start and finish. This isn’t a roadmap, it’s a plan.
What outcome-driven roadmaps do is they shift us away from that. We set an outcome, and then we work towards that outcome.
The work below the outcome can and will change. And that’s ok, expected even as we work towards the outcome. But since we’ve grounded ourselves to that goal — we don’t fall into the trap of empty promises.
With outcome-driven roadmaps, stakeholders become less focused on when something will be delivered by — and far more interested in our progress towards the outcome.
EC: How may product leaders elevate OKRs?
AM: Product leaders can promote OKRs by leading by example. When I’ve worked with product leaders to introduce OKRs to organizations and outcome-driven roadmaps I’ve always started with them and what is in their control.
More often than not, there’s nothing stopping you from setting and using OKRs for one of your products or for the product-org. So start there.
This does two things:
The first is that you demonstrate that this new way of working, can and does work.
The second is that rather than trying to tell and convince people that this is a better way, you show them.
As Mahatma Gandhi is often credited to saying “Be the change you want to see in the world.”
EC: What does aligned discovery look like?
AM: As mentioned earlier one of the major benefits of outcome-driven roadmaps is alignment. This also extends to discovery also. When done well, you can create organization-wide alignment laddering all work up to even a single North Star or just a handful of OKRs.
When we do this we create what is often referred to as aligned-autonomy. We can give teams more autonomy to discover and decide how they are going to attribute towards or achieve an outcome since we’re all aligned around that outcome to begin with.
This means that even the discovery activities that we are doing are based on those outcomes. They become aligned to outcomes. It becomes about discovering the best opportunities to chase that will help us achieve that outcome — and then testing the most viable solutions.
We also spend a lot of time running experiments, and doing discovery on their results so that we can continue to pivot and iterate towards the outcome.
“With outcome-driven roadmaps, stakeholders become less focused on when something will be delivered by — and far more interested in our progress towards the outcome.”
- Ant Murphy
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