productable hasn’t had any vacation for a while. We should go soon. We live in Berlin, so options are manifold. We could go by train, by bike or by car. Or we’ll take a plane from one of our airports Schönefeld or Tegel (if we just wait a bit more, we could choose the brand new one as well). Or we just do something totally different this time and go by foot. We could travel far away or we could choose something nearby. We could go north or south. West or east would be also some cool options. Do we travel alone or with friends and for how long? Do we better go in summer or in winter? Hotel or apartment? Do we want to lazily lying around or be active or maybe combine the best of both worlds?
Mmmh, so many options, this will be a pretty tough decision! We should draw up an Excel-list with all our possibilities at our hand. Then we just need to describe them all in detail and we can easily pick one based on objective criteria. Relaxation and fun in relation to cost would be a cool metric, so we know what is best for us. We need a standardized vacation template, a project manager, a project plan, task forces and a steering committee!
Our approach to planning vacation sounds somewhat lunatic? Yes, it is! The process described above leads to more effort but not to a better decision. No matter how much information we collect, there is still a decent chance that something goes deeply wrong: Kids can become sick and the weather bad. The hotel next to us can look so much more promising than ours. And by the way: How to compare a surf trip to Hawaii with trekking in Nepal?
Vacation planning follows a totally different path: Winter is coming. We like to go snowboarding. We want to go with family and friends and we are tied to school holidays. The fun must not cost more than X EUR. So, mission and vision are clear, off we go searching. A week and some discussions later the trip is booked. Once back from vacation we have learned a lot, so the next planning will be even better.
Business decisions like planning a product roadmap are not fundamentally different from vacation planning. In both cases there are lots of options, demanding stakeholders and much uncertainty. Time and money are limited. What can be different, though, is the overall impact of decisions. But this is no reason to follow a silly decision process. The bigger the impact of a decision is, the deeper the qualitative thoughts on the very basic framework should be: In which business am I anyway? Who are my customers? What is my product? How does my vision and mission look like? What levers in my business model do I want to move? These decisions do not become visible from Excel-lists. They require a great deal of qualitative upfront clarity, waiving a lot of options and corresponding guts. Steve Jobs did not order the iPhone to be built because it was the best choice in a list of 25 options, each backed up by a detailed business plans resulting from a 5-month strategy process.
Planning for 2018 is done in most companies by now, the next season can be much more fun!