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The Decision Stack : Strategy & Principles

The Decision Stack : Strategy & Principles

Make better decisions, faster with the Decision Stack. It helps ensure alignment from top to bottom, bottom to top, and the two pieces of the stack that are most often missing in organisations are a clear strategy and effective product principles.


Martin Eriksson

June 20, 2022

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  1. Better decisions, faster How to avoid decision overload, create alignment,

 and increase decision quality and velocity. Easy! @bfgmartin
  2. Building products requires making decision after decision. All day, every

    day. @bfgmartin
  3. 12% 14% 35% 39% Daily Weekly Monthly Never How often

    do you feel overwhelmed by the number of product decisions you have to make? Twitter poll, June 2022
  4. Why are decisions so hard? The paradox of choice.

  5. If we can choose anything, there is too much choice.

  6. Barry Schwartz Psychologist & Professor Author, The Paradox of Choice

    “Each new option adds to the list of trade-offs, and trade-offs have psychological consequences. 
 A greater variety of choices actually makes us feel worse”
  7. “Zero choice is the fastest route to low quality.” Tim

    Harford The Undercover Economist Financial Times, November 13, 2009
  8. “When people are given a moderate number of options (4

    to 6) rather than a large number (20 to 30), they are more likely to make a choice, are more confident in their decisions, and are happier with what they choose.” Sheena Iyengar Professor, Columbia Business School
  9. @bfgmartin In a supermarket, if we’re just “thirsty” choice is

  10. @bfgmartin If you instead think “I want something with caffeine”

    the choices become simpler.
  11. @bfgmartin Think “I want something with caffeine but no sugar”

    and suddenly it’s even easier.
  12. So what does this mean for product decisions? @bfgmartin

  13. 1 1. Don’t offer too many choices 
 in your

    product (but other’s have said that better than I can) @bfgmartin
  14. 2 2. Rethink how you make decisions about your product

  15. Why are product decisions so hard? The paradox of autonomy.

  16. “It doesn’t make sense to hire smart people and then

    tell them what to do. We hire smart people so they can tell us what to do.” Steve Jobs Co-Founder, Chairman, and CEO of Apple @bfgmartin
  17. @bfgmartin But unfettered autonomy can be pretty chaotic as everyone

    runs in different directions.
  18. “success comes from aligning on 
 high-quality, high-velocity decisions” Jeff

    Bezos Founder & Executive Chairman, Amazon @bfgmartin
  19. YOU are here @bfgmartin

  20. Where do you want to go? @bfgmartin

  21. Let’s align on a direction @bfgmartin

  22. There is still plenty of autonomy and decisions to make

  23. Great. Alignment = less decision overload, better decisions, and happier

    teams. How do we create alignment? @bfgmartin
  24. Opportunities Opportunities Vision Strategy Objectives Opportunities Objectives Principles Opportunities We

    need clarity from 
 vision through to execution @bfgmartin
  25. Opportunities Opportunities no no Vision Strategy Objectives Opportunities Objectives no

    no no no Principles Opportunities no no What you say no to is just as important 
 as what you say yes to @bfgmartin
  26. Vision Strategy Objectives Opportunities Objectives Principles Opportunities Opportunities Opportunities This

    is the Decision Stack @bfgmartin
  27. Vision Strategy Objectives Opportunities Objectives How? How? How? Why? Why?

    Why? Principles How? Why? Opportunities Opportunities Opportunities It connects the dots from top to bottom and from the bottom up. @bfgmartin
  28. Vision Objectives Opportunities Objectives How? Why? Why? Principles Opportunities Opportunities

    Opportunities But if any one piece is missing, 
 it all falls apart ?? @bfgmartin
  29. @bfgmartin In my experience across my career, interviewing product leaders

    for our book, and advising startups, there are often two pieces missing that break the stack.
  30. Vision Strategy Objectives Opportunities Objectives Principles Opportunities Opportunities Opportunities The

    Decision Stack @bfgmartin
  31. Vision Strategy Objectives Opportunities Objectives Principles Opportunities Opportunities Opportunities 1.

    A lack of clear Strategy @bfgmartin
  32. There is no excuse for 
 a lack of clear

    strategy @bfgmartin
  33. My favourite is SWOT. 
 Swhat? @bfgmartin

  34. What are your strengths? Capabilities, technology, insights, distribution? @bfgmartin

  35. What are your weaknesses? Capacity, skills, tech debt? @bfgmartin

  36. What are your opportunities? Markets, trends, innovation? @bfgmartin

  37. What are your threats? Markets, trends, competitors? @bfgmartin

  38. Stop. Make it actionable. @bfgmartin

  39. What actions can we take? Make sure they’re valuable, usable,

    viable, and feasible @bfgmartin
  40. Situation: UK used car market is huge, but highly fragmented,

    and famous for it’s poor customer experience Opportunities: Huge market barely penetrated by e- commerce, that would take signi fi cant capital to succeed in Threats: US companies looking to expand, UK offline businesses catching on and investing in e-commerce Strategy? Build a great e-commerce experience and exceptional operational capabilities, raise enough money to build a big business, and do it quickly. @bfgmartin
  41. @bfgmartin Strategy isn’t always about product 
 - but product

    always has to follow strategy.
  42. Strategy is hard. Strategy is everyone’s responsibility. @bfgmartin

  43. Vision Strategy Objectives Opportunities Objectives Principles Opportunities Opportunities Opportunities 2.

    Unhelpful principles @bfgmartin
  44. “It’s not hard to make decisions when you know what

    your principles are.” Roy E. Disney Board Director, Disney @bfgmartin
  45. @bfgmartin I learned this lesson early in my career, as

    a product manager at Monster.
  46. “Job seekers always come first - build an amazing experience

    for them and the recruiters will follow” Jeff Taylor CEO & Co-Founder, Monster.com @bfgmartin
  47. Past decisions focus future decisions @bfgmartin

  48. These decisions are your Product Principles @bfgmartin

  49. Product Principles are not just values @bfgmartin

  50. “Build a delightful user experience” 
 Does anyone want to

    build a terrible user experience? “Make something people want” 
 I know! Let’s build something no-one wants! “Excellence” 
 Let’s aim for mediocrity. @bfgmartin
  51. No Man Leftb Behind US Army Rancher’s famous motto Think

    big — butb start small. Intercom.io Design from ˋrstb principles. Intercom.io Ship to Learn Intercom.io Be stubborn onb vision, ˌexibleb on details Amazon.com Two pizza rule Amazon.com (no meeting should be so large that two pizzas can’t feedb the whole group) Ownership Amazon.com Leaders are owners. They never say “that’s not my job." Are Right, A Lot Amazon.com Leaders are right a lot. They have strong judgment andb good instincts. Hire and Developb the Best Amazon.com Leaders raise the performance bar with every hire andb promotion. Deliver Results Amazon.com Despite setbacks, they rise to the occasion and neverb settle. Be worthy ofb trust Evernote Sweat the details Evernote Aim higher Evernote We, not I Evernote Cupcake Evernote Cupcake is actually a picture, as it’s a reminder to notb take yourself too seriously. It has survived years ofb growth at Evernote. Build Lovableb Products Aha! Focus on theb Completeb Productb Experience Aha! Don’t make meb think Slack Be a great host Slack Prototype theb path Slack Don’t reinventb the wheel Slack Make bigger,b bolder bets Slack Universal Facebook So our design needs to work for everyone, everyb culture, every language, every device, every stage ofb life. Human Facebook This is why our voice and visual style stay in theb background, behind people’s voices, people’s faces, andb people’s expression. Clean Facebook Our visual style is clean and understated, to create ab blank canvas on which our users live. Consistent Facebook Our interactions speak to users with a single voice,b building trust. Reduce, reuse, don’t redesign. Useful Facebook Our product is more utility than entertainment, meantb for repeated daily use, providing value efˋciently. Thisb is why our core interactions, the ones users engageb daily, are streamlined, purged of unnecessary clicksb and wasted space. Fast Facebook As such, site performance is something our usersb should never notice. Our site should move as fast as web do. Transparent Facebook We are clear and up front about what’s happening andb why. Focus on theb user and all elseb will follow Google Since the beginning, we’ve focused on providing theb best user experience possible. Useful is forever 37signals Bells and whistles wear off, but usefulness never does.b We build useful software that does just what you needb and nothing you don’t. Great service isb everything 37signals We’re famous for fast and friendly customer service. Web work hard to make sure we live up to that reputationb every day. Clarity is king 37signals Buzzwords, lingo, and sensationalized sales- and- marketing- speak have no place at 37signals. Web communicate clearly and honestly. Our customersb are our investors 37signals Our customers fund our daily operations by paying forb our products. We answer to them — not investors, theb stock market, or a board of directors. The basics areb beautiful 37signals We’ll never overlook what really matters: The basics.b Great service, ease of use, honest pricing, and respectb for our customer’s time, money, and trust. No hidden feesb or secret prices 37signals We believe everyone is entitled to the best price we canb offer. Our prices are public, published right on our site,b and the same no matter who you are. Software shouldb be easy 37signals Our products are intuitive. You’ll pick them up inb seconds or minutes, not hours, days or weeks. We don’Wb Members ˋrst linkedin Without our members, there’s no LinkedIn. Everythingb we do, we do for them. Relationshipsb matter linkedin We’re in the business of building relationships. Thisb includes our workplace. Be open, honest,b and constructive linkedin We strive to communicate clearly and share helpfulb feedback. Inspireb excellence linkedin No challenge is too big. We keep learning, iterating,b and improving. Take intelligentb risks linkedin One of the secrets to LinkedIn’s success. Not every riskb works out – but some do. Act like an ownerb of #OneLinkedIn linkedin We make every decision, big or small, with care. Embodyb diversity,b @bfgmartin Sadly, our industry is rife with meaningless principles.
  52. Product Principles need to be a framework 
 for decision

    making @bfgmartin
  53. 1 1. Principles are specific about trade-offs Use Even/Over statements:

    Conversion even over revenue Job seeker even over recruiter Mobile experience even over desktop @bfgmartin
  54. You might recognise these from 
 the Agile Manifesto: Individuals

    and interactions over processes and tools Working software over comprehensive documentation Customer collaboration over contract negotiation Responding to change over following a plan @bfgmartin
  55. “Focus on the user and all else will follow” Google

    “Put merchants fi rst” Shopify “Conversion trumps pro fi tability optimisation” Klarna “Long-term retention over short-term retention” Supercell @bfgmartin
  56. 2 Vision Strategy Objectives Opportunities Objectives How? How? How? Why?

    Why? Why? Principles How? Why? Opportunities Opportunities Opportunities 2. Principles align with your Decision Stack @bfgmartin
  57. Vision Strategy Objectives Opportunities Objectives no no no no no

    no Principles Opportunities no no Everything you said no to? That’s a Principle. @bfgmartin
  58. 3 3. Principles make your values actionable “It’s intuitive, not

    learned ” “We design for everyone” “Fast is better than slow” Pinterest Coop Google @bfgmartin
  59. Good Product Principles ▸ Describe how you want to build

    your product and the trade-offs you’re willing to make ▸ Are speci fi c to your company, strategy, and vision ▸ Are actionable, memorable 
 and simple ▸ Make decisions easy Bad Product Principles ▸ Are meaningless fluff or only reflect values (everyone wants to make products “delightful”) ▸ Don’t differentiate you from your competition @bfgmartin
  60. We’re not reinventing the wheel… Design has design systems. Engineering

    has coding principles. Product needs Product Principles. @bfgmartin
  61. @bfgmartin Some examples from the 
 EQT Ventures portfolio.

  62. @bfgmartin

  63. Teams over individuals We focus on building the features that

 team productivity instead of solo productivity. Integration over composability We opt for a tight integration with existing frameworks, where we sacri fi ce composability to get a very smooth integrated experience. Sensible defaults over con fi guration Every time we add a con fi guration option, we’re implicitly saying we don’t know what the user wants. We encourage sensible defaults & strong opinions over con fi guration, because people can resort back to the tool that they’re used to (VSCode) if they want con fi guration. @bfgmartin
  64. @bfgmartin

  65. Collaboration over documentation We are a tool where product, design,

    and engineering work together - not document and throw things over the wall. Meet our users where they work We integrate with best practice tools like Figma, Github, and Slack so that we can meet our users where they already work. We are not an issue tracker We’re the anti-Jira, and must think differently. @bfgmartin
  66. Great. Product Principles help me make decisions. 
 How do

    I get started? @bfgmartin
  67. Bottom up: Use your retrospectives. Codify regular debates. What have

    you said no to? (that’s a principle) Top down: Reinforce your strategy by articulating acceptable trade-offs as principles What’s really going to make your strategy successful? What’s not? @bfgmartin
  68. That’s the Decision Stack. Whether you’re a product manager or

    a product leader - it’s your responsibility. @bfgmartin
  69. Vision Strategy Objectives Opportunities Objectives Why? Why? Why? Principles Why?

    Opportunities Opportunities Opportunities Keep asking questions 
 until your Decision Stack is clear How? How? How? How? @bfgmartin
  70. Vision Strategy Objectives Opportunities Objectives Principles Opportunities Opportunities Opportunities Synchronise

    Strategy & Principles @bfgmartin
  71. Vision Strategy Objectives Opportunities Objectives Principles Opportunities Opportunities Opportunities Set

    the right cadence Constant Flux Static Evolves Slowly Your next round @bfgmartin
  72. Vision Strategy Objectives Opportunities Objectives Principles Opportunities Opportunities Opportunities The

    Decision Stack 
 is everyone’s responsibility Product teams Leadership @bfgmartin
  73. “Whenever you see a successful business, someone once made a

    courageous decision.” Peter Drucker Author of 39 books @bfgmartin
  74. Make better decisions, faster with the Decision Stack 

    it helps make room for more courageous decisions. Thank you. 
 Find out more at thedecisionstack.com and sign up to receive these slides. @bfgmartin