A framework for collaborative alignment

Auftragsklärung bei der NEW WORK SE

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Product pioneers podcast with Arne Kittler explaining Auftragsklärung

Bring everybody on the same page

Good alignment is one of the key skills required of Product Managers today.

To improve the alignment process, XING’s team of Product Managers developed the Auftragsklärung, a framework for collaborative, bottom-up alignment. Check it out!

Canvas for collaborative alignment


Early alignment pays off!

Warum Auftragsklärung wichtig ist


Our experience has shown that good alignment early into a project is a major factor in making collaborative product development a success. Here’s why:

  • Builds trust with stakeholders and as such is a necessary prerequisite for autonomous teamwork.
  • Surfaces conflicts and decision needs which are best addressed early before slowing down or blocking processes.
  • Avoids waste which can otherwise easily arise from misunderstandings, missing role clarity or unclear expectations.
Wozu Auftragsklärung gemacht wird

What for?

We strive for early alignment, in particular for

product initiatives which meet one or several of the following criteria:

  • Expected investment of more than one quarter of work
  • Collaboration between several teams or departments
  • Risk of contrasting or unclear expectations

Even though taking time for alignment may initially feel like a costly time investment, our experience has shown that it pays off over time


How do we use Auftragsklärung

Once we realised the importance of good alignment, we looked for ways to support this process. During several iterations we developed the Auftragsklärung, a framework for collaborative, bottom-up alignment.

Auftragsklärung is usually applied by the product person driving the initiative. As such it works bottom-up and complements the typical top down directions we have at XING such as our vision, mission, annual goals.

Since the main objective of the Auftragsklärung is to bring everybody on the same page, we make it a collaborative effort involving stakeholders, affected peers and team members. We identified that a canvas format works best for triggering participants to externalise their thinking and make their assumptions transparent.

In the end it’s important to notice that the main value of the Auftragsklärung is in the dialogue it triggers and how it makes sure all involved think and talk openly, raising early concerns and sharing expected outcomes early on.

Version 2

Version 2 of Auftragsklärung

The initial version of the Auftragsklärung was rolled-out internally at XING with trainings for all product people and we also broadly shared it with product folks outside of XING on conferences, meetups and in blog posts.

Over time we realized that we wanted to improve some aspects of the framework, which is why we recently introduced a new, second version.

The main changes with V2:

  • Active emphasis of the user perspective. We introduced this because we observed that the discussions we had tended to become very company-centered and as such contradiced the strong user focus we strive for when building products. Now we explicitly put ourselves in the shoes of our users.

  • Supporting commentary. While we actively school our product people in using Auftragsklärung we happily noticed that the framework was also adopted by colleagues from other departments or by product teams from other companies. That’s great because we are happy to share! To give better guidance in such cases we added some additional “fine print” which will hopefully make it easier to make best use of Auftragsklärung.

  • Differentiated perspective on Outcome and Output. When aligning around expected outcomes and output we learned that it is valuable to look at it from different perspectives: What are our tangible expectations for the shortterm (ca next quarter) and what’s our long-term ambition and the path forward. This is now supported in the framework.

your turn

Try it!

We invite you to try the Auftragsklärung yourself.

We firmly believe and know from conversations with other companies that the Auftragsklärung is not only helpful in larger product organizations like ours with over 50 product teams, but can also support the alignment process in other setups, such as startups. Whether you apply the framework “as is” or adapt it to your environment is up to you.

In any case we would appreciate your feedback or comment!