Embrace uncertainty through a “just enough” approach to product strategy

A common anti-pattern in the world of software development is the over-operationalisation of the research and development process. In moving away from traditional ways of working, companies will spin up long-lived teams, working to sprint cycles, but still find a way to cram an inordinate amount of upfront planning into the system, causing a significant amount of waste. This can feel like a big step in the right direction but often comes with very little benefits compared to the old way of working, as the way the team works doesn’t change.

Teams should embrace uncertainty and experimentation by implementing a just enough approach to strategy and ideation.

“Just enough” roadmaps

Roadmaps should not be long lists of thoroughly defined features and tasks. As great as it would be to have a bulletproof, long-term plan for your business, this is rarely achievable. Instead, backlogged initiatives should be less thoroughly defined the further they are from implementation. This ensures that:

You still need a plan

It’s still important to know what’s next and to have a North Star for your product. Here are some tips for providing direction without being overly wasteful or prescriptive.

Using the framework above, the more near term a piece of work is, the more clearly defined it is. The mission is broad, the vision is less so, the strategy has explicit steps (but with open-minded solutions) and upcoming initiative have some high-level solutioning. The goal is to ensure the company has direction, and that when an initiative is picked up it is ready to be ideated and delivered by the team.

I typically leave greater levels of fidelity to the team (e.g., epics, stories, spikes, and tasks), but these should also be defined only when required.


The scoping and decision-making process can be greatly simplified if common decisions can be standardised. A high level of standardisation will make planning more rapid and therefore reduce the amount of time required to scope upcoming work. Conversely, standardisation will reduce creativity and out-of-the-box thinking, so it is absolutely possible to go too far.

Supplement planning with research and experimentation

A just enough approach to strategy and ideation can feel a bit like shooting from the hip. This is especially true when future initiatives have a significant level of uncertainty around implementation. In scenarios where future initiatives feel especially daunting because the solution is not obvious, research and experimentation should be embraced. Teams can bring forward experiments and research (e.g., technical proof of concepts, customer research, UX prototypes) relevant to future initiatives in order to gain some early confidence in how a problem can be tackled.

15 November, 2021

Subscribe for updates

Subscribe for weekly advice covering product strategy, development operations, building teams and more.

Privacy and terms

I care about privacy as much as you do. I will only use your email address to send you this newsletter or to reach out to you directly, and you can unsubscribe at any time. I will not share, sell, or rent your email address to any third party, though I do store it the software I use to dispatch emails.

The information provided on this blog is for informational purposes only and should not be considered investment advice. The content on this blog is not a substitute for professional financial advice. The views and opinions expressed on this blog are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of other organizations. The author makes no representations as to the accuracy, completeness, currentness, suitability, or validity of any information on this blog and will not be liable for any errors, omissions, or delays in this information or any losses, injuries, or damages arising from its use. The author may hold positions in the companies or products discussed on this blog. Always conduct your own research and consult a financial advisor before making any investment decisions.