Lexicon of Product Line Strategy

The Lexicon of Product Line Strategy

New Words and Business Knowledge

Decades ago, most MBA curriculum followed the Harvard Business School approach. Each had a capstone course called Policy, taught in the classic Socratic method. Good professors fed students cases and then used leading questions to set up deep discussions. For many students like me, the discussions taught more than we’d learn in a lecture.

The problem, though, wasn’t the teaching method. It was the content. Policy is a broad and vague topic. The course did little to teach its underpinnings like strategy and governance. Nor did it teach a deep understanding of policy influences like culture and innovation. In retrospect, the famed Harvard Professors we sought to lead the case studies, knew little about these deeper topics. No one knew much.

It’s easy to spot the knowledge gap. Look at words and terms we use today compared to the 70s and 80s. We didn’t use terms like strategy execution or governance. And we never talked of being agile or of design thinking. Platforms and open innovation were more notional than fact. And business transformation, business model, and digitalization didn’t exist.

Our Expanding Lexicon

The growing business lexicon is both exciting and problematic. It’s exciting because these terms help transfer knowledge. And sometimes the new terms leave old ones like “policy” in the dust. But other times the terms trample one another and confuse good definitions.

Every consultant plays the lexicon game. They must if they wish to deliver value. But today, consultants champion strategy clarification and business transformation. They don’t promote policy-making. The change demands new terms to transfer new knowledge. And knowledge sharing is fundamental to the consultant’s core job of creating value.

Many senior executives fight the lexicon tsunami by banning certain words. But such resistance is often temporary. I’ve seen top managers forbid terms like framework, models, and process. Little did they know their resistance could bind and stifle their organizations. It turns out that resisting lexicon changes is not always a great leadership move.

What about Product Lines?

In my field of product line strategy, the lexicon evolution is strong. It must be. That’s because many topics continue to be fleshed out. Consider that most research and writings are about product management and product innovation. That’s the singular “product,” not the multiple products found in product lines. Today’s thinking can’t just focus on winning with a single product.  We must build a string of multiple products that boost one another. The difference is like that between arithmetic and calculus. They’re both in the same field but differ greatly. Yet we need both.

There are many terms I needed to define and refine to share the knowledge of what makes product line strategies good or not.  And to those who roll their eyes at learning something new, I can’t apologize. But I can work to make the terms and their definitions more accessible. And to do so, I’ve made major changes to what I teach and how I present the terms and their definitions.

You’ll find a glossary of terms for product line strategy and roadmaps on my website (adept-plm.com). It’s near identical to that in my book, “The Profound Impact of Product Line Strategy.” It’s my goal to advance the terms and their meaning. I hope to work with all readers – consultants, practitioners, and academics – to build and share knowledge across the topic. And I’m glad to give credit (links, references, or call-outs) where credit is due.

A Roadmapping Glossary

You’ll also have some help when reading my blog. All glossary terms automatically appear  highlighted. And when you pass your mouse over the term, its definition will pop-up. This enables the reader and the expert critic to match definitions to context. The match helps speed knowledge sharing.

As an example, here’s a statement to show usefulness of the active glossary.

Don’t confuse Governance with Decision-making.

These terms relate but don’t mean the same.  In practice, you’ll hear people conflate the terms. It’s no big deal except that confusing the terms slows our collective understanding.

In my blog, the definitions pop up by moving your cursor over the word. Outside my blog, I can only present a link to the definitions.

If you’re interested in Product Line Strategies and Roadmaps, please join me in building out the glossary. I don’t want the field left behind like what happened to the old MBA Policy classes. Drop me a note or leave a comment with your thoughts.  And by all means, please share this post to your network!

Learn More

To learn more about the lexicon of product line strategy, please check out these important resources.

Book The Profound Impact of Product Line Strategy
Buy at Amazon

One Day Master Course: May 14 2019, Philadelphia

Whitepaper– Good Product Line Strategy Matters. Here’s How to Create One.

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