How Product Leaders at Zalando Successfully work with Multiples Strategies
An interview with the Director of Product of Zalando Plus, about the challenges of strategy at a VERY large scale.
As organizations grow, strategy becomes more complex, and different layers start to interact with each other (company strategy, business unit strategy, company versus product strategy, and the list goes on).
Zalando, with more than 17.000 employees, definitely has this challenge and complexity. To explore how they navigate it, I interviewed Darrell Stephenson, Director of Product of Zalando Plus.
You can listen to the episode, or jump to my takeaways!
- The level for which you are defining strategy influences the time horizon and level of detail of the strategy. At the highest level, Zalando has a broader group strategy that is very long-ranged and principle-based (versus lower business unit level, where they may aim for yearly and more concrete product strategies).
- In larger organizations, where the impact to the customer may be achieved by a combination of multiple product teams, having the strategy set at the “customer experience” level (instead of individual product or business unit), may help bring more alignment to the value we are trying to deliver.
- While having multiple strategies may sound like a lack of focus or force you to decide with conflicting interests, I think it was illuminating how the intersections of those strategies can actually help you with more tangible product decisions (Darrel used the example of “having the best assortment of products” combined with “best data-protection”).
- Different from many conversations I had about product versus company strategy (or business or marketing strategies), Zalando to be more customer-centric uses this customer experience or value proposition strategy, combining all needed disciplines under the same artifact.
- As I expected, dependencies are a painful topic. Zalando does a lot of planning work upfront, understanding who would be impacted and agreeing to work on those topics collaboratively (even when all the details are not figured out, there is an agreement to invest together in the different topics decided). Having the scale of Zalando, it is also needed to deliver a holistic consistent experience (instead of giving teams more autonomy and agility but fragmenting the delivered experience).
This content is related to my book Product Direction. In it, I describe in length, with tools and examples, all the steps to create a successful product strategy and how to connect it with OKRs.