Lack of company strategy leaving PM's with one hand tied behind their back

My company (a small startup) doesn’t have any real strategy. Just goals that we will magically 10x our growth despite nothing being different.
(I’ve been reading good strategy/bad strategy recently and been angrily nodding along with all of it)

Feels like I have one hand tied behind my back because mapping out the future of the product is basically impossible. It’s just random features that don’t tie together.

Does anyone have any tips for how to deal with the lack of company strategy as a PM?


Make it transparent:

  • What is the strategy lacking?
  • How does it negatively effect your work? Get examples.
  • What would you expect and why? (Arguments should be better than “I read it in a book”)
  • How are others effected?

Try to find supporters who are struggling with the same points. Communicate it to your boss or even the CEO when you’re in a startup.

And if they don’t care, maybe you should think about leaving :slight_smile:


Thanks, all good points. I’ve tried to talk about this to the CEO before, but he didn’t seem to get my point, so will try in a different way again.
It’s not that we have a bad strategy at the moment, it’s the complete absence of strategy that leaves us just running round in circles. Without knowing what direction we want to be facing, its hard to know if the work we’re doing is helping us or not.

I’m looking for a more defined target audience (e.g. beginners vs. experienced users) at the very least, as that would at least give us some direction.


Are you still trying to establish product-market fit? That’s at least more understandable, since there’s some degree of throwing stuff at the wall to see what sticks involved. Even then you should have a general direction in which you’re throwing things, but…eh.

If you’ve established PMF, then your CEO needs to really get their act together because you’ve got a core customer type and they will have needs that can align with a particular theme. It shouldn’t be the CEO’s job to come up with that theme or be an expert on the customer type, but they should also know about it, and support a roadmap that’s informed by sales, marketing, customer success, engineering, etc. And if none of that is present, then…well, that’s a CEO problem to solve, unless they’re fine with you just pulling stuff out of your butt to do something strategic. And if they feel like dictating things, it’s a great job market out there for PMs :slight_smile:


Good Strategy / Bad Strategy illustrates how focused and concise a good strategy is.

I have experienced this at large and successful companies - a lot of decks about targets and values but not the tangible action you see from RR.

So what I have done (and am currently doing) is create that strategy for my product to drive from the ground up. As it gives me direction, I get leaders to sign up (or force them to consider their desired direction) and I can take others on the journey.


As others have said, either come up with your own and then use that to build your product or force the company to come up with their own (its amazing how people who previously had no opinions on something will have a lot of opinions when presented with “okay then, this is how I’ll do it”).

Give it 1-3 months, if you think that’s working out, great. If not, start looking to leave.


Yeah. Sometimes people need to see something to start to process this level of thinking and consider a direction.


This is it. In the absence of a strategy, make decisions that help shape (or force) a direction


Lack of strategy is quite common for a startup. Having a clear and consistent strategy required investment and organization maturity… changing an organization mindset and culture is long journey i would not recommended unless you are in an authority position! The question you should ask yourself is are you still growing, are you still happy in your position ? If the lack of strategy is making your work and life difficult then you might want starting to look elsewhere! Hope this helps.


Unfortunately being in a large Fortune 500 company is not guarantee of strategy either… I’m living in a personal hell where every other word from our leaders is “strategy” but they literally have no idea how to create or even articulate one. When recently asked what our digital strategy is, one executive literally said that it was “Agile”. You can be damn sure I went to Amazon later that night and binge purchased several unnecessary gadgets in a desperate bid to fill the void in my product soul.


I agree with this. Some advice I had was to not do the job you aren’t compensated to do. Making these changes is extremely hard, tiring, and stressful.

If the CEO of the company is not good enough, not up for the task, or not willing to step down, the most realistic and best advice is to LEAVE. Wasting months to get nowhere will just leave you burnt out (personal experience).


Yep this. Don’t waste months or years of your life changing something largely out of your control. Once it’s clear they don’t know what they’re doing and probably won’t, best to put an eye toward the next opportunity.


Build and plan your own strategy (for now) then articulate that and work towards it with your product goals. What do you think is the most important thing for the product you are managing right now?

  • New user growth? Create features and workflows that will help close new sales.

  • Retention? Build features that will keep existing customers happy and reduce churn.

  • Stability/reliability? Focus on fixing bugs and reducing tech debt. Release often.


Thanks for the helpful responses everyone!
I’m going to talk to the CEO, see what they say (and if as expected, not much), then I will pitch a few different ideas for what the strategy could be (with my preferences), and go from there.


It’s a start up, and you get facetime with the CEO, use it to your advantage.

Devise your own strategic directives and a product future plan that follows that strategy and then present it to your leadership.


To me this is the whole purpose of the lack of discipline of startups. It creates this vacuum where the best are allowed to step up.

Create your own product strategy and go for it. Get buy from stake holders and make it happen. Worst case they say no and give you a plan to follow. Best case you are now head of product. Get to grinding.

1 Like

Growth of 10x is financial target, not a strategy.

Strategy is how you will achieve those growth numbers.

I try to phrase the discussion as if we do a) we get this type of growth. If we do a+b, we get this type of growth. If we do a+b+c, then we get this better.

Include your dependencies. Marketing need to increase by X, sales needs to increase by Y, and partners need to do X and engineering needs to create Q. List whatever you need for the growth to happen.

The point is to show your executives what they need to get the growth they want. It is up to them to decide whether they will give what you need to make it happen.

I’ve done this a few times. I never got was needed to make that high growth target ti happen, but it helped enable a more realistic discussion of what was possible for what they were willing to invest.

I’m going through this now where my company of having a Dream of Fields moment and I am saying that idea alone is not enough. We need to do much more to make that happen.

Some execs will listen, some will ignore you and some actively dismiss and poop on you. Depending on the company, you may not find what you need to thrive as a PM.

In my company, I’ve been around the dawn of time If they don’t listen, I know that the execs that don’t work out will be gone in a couple years and I will work for their successors, so I just bide by time and wait for the sea change.

1 Like