In a lot of ways, stakeholders are just like children. They have limited attention spans and respond positively to structure, simplicity and colour. This becomes even more evident the more senior your stakeholders are.
It’s not surprising as they have a constant stream of requests for both decisions and resources. Keeping things simple and clear helps them do their jobs – and helps you as a product manager get the focus your product deserves.
This aim for simplicity inspired the creation of our Launch Readiness Template.
This powerful tool is a single summary slide that enables you to report the status of every mini-project or workstream related to launching a product.
You can create a version on your own but it’s usually much better to have a common template, agreed by the product team and senior stakeholders, that everyone uses.
Setting it up
Start by dividing your project into a manageable number of key workstreams (say 10-20).
Then, each workstream needs to have an owner. For example, your contact in Support might own and organise support team training, your contact in Development will be responsible for delivering the product against agreed requirements. As the product manager, your own name may appear several times!
Make sure you understand the relative importance of each workstream. This will allow you to make a distinction between ‘critical activities’ that must be completed to launch on time and ‘other activities’ that can be finished after launch.
The critical activities have two RAG (Red, Amber, or Green) statuses. The first shows whether the workstream is introducing any risk to meeting the target delivery date, the other shows the level of completeness. In the example above there is just one workstream (Business sign-off) that is shown as putting the launch at risk.
For non-critical activities, the RAG status shows only the level of completeness. So in the version above it’s unlikely the sales tools will be ready for the launch, but this is not seen as important enough to stop the launch going ahead.
Usually, you would create just the template summary page. However, it can be useful to provide further explanation on each workstream using a details page. If you do this, we recommend providing supplementary information only for those things that are red.
Using the template
Now you’re ready to send your Launch Readiness Template out to everybody involved in the project – particularly those all-important senior stakeholders.
We recommend issuing an update once a week during the launch project. That means you or your Project Manager (if you’re lucky enough to have one) need to get in touch with all your workstream owners and update each RAG status before you distribute the document.
A further refinement you could use is arrows (↑ → ↓) to reveal the RAG trend. For example, if a workstream is marked amber but the arrow is up (↑), this shows a trend towards green – which is less worrying than a down arrow (↓) trending towards red. We’ve shown that in the ‘Other Activities’ section. We always find that whatever format you use evolves at the beginning of a project until things settle down.
We’ve found that this handy little tool provides multiple benefits:
- The top line reminds everyone why the project is important
- It gives a structured, colour-coded summary of the project status at a glance in an easy-to-digest format
- It forces you, and everyone else involved, to keep on top of things, avoiding unexpected surprises – one thing children tend to love that stakeholders most definitely do not!
- You get leverage with each of your workstream owners through the simple process of flagging their performance publicly
- It reassures stakeholders that you’re in control as you set and manage their expectations
- A consistent red RAG status over a number of weeks will focus senior stakeholders on areas of concern and builds the pressure on them to act. Their eyes are somehow trained to pick up the colour red!
Ultimately, using this Launch Readiness Template keeps product managers on top of their launch and shows they’re professional and in control. We can personally vouch for its effectiveness.
Director, Product Focus