TBM 218: Level, Depth, Time, and Frame
When I think about strategy, goals, plans, roadmaps, etc. I think about them across four dimensions:
Depth (or Specificity)
Here's a brief overview.
"Level" relates to the organizational hierarchy. Even in relatively flat organizations, there tends to be a bidirectional flow of information and strategy deployment. For example, a corporate strategy will influence a product and marketing strategy, which will simultaneously inform the corporate strategy.
Depth (or Specificity)
Depth (or specificity) describes whether the work in question is more high-level or specific. Sometimes the simplest big-picture statement can inspire and guide a huge team. In other situations, it is important to get specific, even at the corporate strategy level. A big mistake is assume there needs to be a correlation with depth and level.
Then we have Time. A team might have a one-quarter strategy that links to a ten-year strategy. Even features and tasks require "strategy" to some degree—a diagnosis, guiding principles, and coherent actions (to reference Rumelt). My favorite metaphor here is orbiting planets or atoms. The sense and respond orbits may take longer (or shorter), but it is all connected.
Finally, we have Frame. Ideally, a strategy combines frames, but at any given time, you might focus on commercial, capabilities, ecosystems, competitive, dynamic capabilities, etc.
Why is this helpful?
As a product manager, you often find yourself overwhelmed. Whenever you go high level, someone asks you to get specific. And whenever someone asks you to get specific, you are asked to "be strategic." It can be very disconcerting.
Then you pick up popular strategy templates and wonder, "Wait, how often should I update this?"
What is happening is that you are navigating level, depth, time, and frame.
Instead, I think of it as a tapestry of inspired variations and refresh cycles. Here’s a fairly common set of artifacts and refresh cadences.
Product strategy variations span 3-10 years, 1-3 years, and 1-3 quarters. It is the same strategy, expressed differently along different time horizons, and we refresh different things in different cycles: annually, biannually, quarterly, and monthly. Also note the different "frames" ranging from product strategy, competitive, proposals, etc.
Calendars like this are fairly common, but it serves as a good example of Level, Depth (or Specificity), Time, and Frame in action.