3 critical questions for company alignment

I started writing this post with Product Managers in mind, but these three questions are actually bigger than them. In my opinion these are the first three things every new employee should memorise when joining a company, or you run the risk of severe misalignment.

These questions are simple to ask, but can prove very difficult to answer, primarily because they put boundaries on what the company can do. To senior leadership, this of course feels very dangerous. If you manage Product Managers though, I feel it is your absolute responsibility to insist on these questions being explicitly answered, because it empowers your Product Managers to say "No".

1. What do we build, and what do we NOT build?

What does your product (or portfolio of products) do, and why? What are the features and use cases. What are the product ideas that you have decided not to build, and why?

The answer to this question will tell you if the company has a vision, an assessment of the industry its in and an understanding of where they think it's going.

2. Who do we build for, and who do we NOT build for?

What segment of the market is your product a perfect fit for? This could be considered the primary target segment.

What segment of the market is it a poorer fit, but enough of a fit that you can sell to them and support them, and continue to innovate and solve for them? This could be considered a secondary target segment.

What segment of the market is not a good fit? These people are who you can tell your product managers to ignore during their product discovery phases, and who Sales team should make sure they do not pursue.

3. Where are they in the world, and where are they not?

If you're in a company trying to grow, you will inevitably find yourself trying to answer the question "Does the product work in X" - where X is the country/region that Sales team have a potential deal in.

The problem of course is that moving into a new region is usually a lot more difficult than it looks. There are different payments providers, cultural differences in the product, local laws and regulations to deal with (and to continue to deal with as that evolves), and much, much more.

Without mindfulness around how you approach new regions, it can cause immense strain on the company, so knowing where your Product Managers need to pay attention to, and where they don't need to pay attention to, is critical.

Without being able to clearly answer these three questions, it's very likely that your company is using its energy inefficiently, as different teams and individuals pull in different directions, falling out of alignment.

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